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Disulfiram Use in Patients With Abnormal Liver Function Test Results

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59(6):313-316

Background: Concern about the precipitation of severe hepatitis by disulfiram often causes clinicians to avoid using this effective treatment in patients who have elevated baseline transaminase levels, even though no empirical evidence has so far shown severe hepatotoxicity to be related to such laboratory abnormalities. This study examines the effects of disulfiram in alcohol-dependent patients with elevated liver function test results and/or serologic evidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.

Method: Hepatitis serologies and baseline transaminase levels were obtained for 57 male alcoholics starting treatment with disulfiram. Sequential liver function test results were obtained for up to 12 weeks while subjects took disulfiram.

Results: Although subjects with elevated baseline transaminase levels and serologic evidence of HCV infection were the most likely to evidence marked elevations in transaminase levels while taking disulfiram, most subjects took disulfiram without other adverse consequences. In only 1 subject did elevations appear directly related to disulfiram.

Conclusion: Monitoring of liver function test results is warranted for patients taking disulfiram and permits most patients with moderately elevated transaminase levels to take it safely.