Ursodeoxycholic acid

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Ursodeoxycholic acid
Ursodeoxycholic acid acsv.svg
Ursodeoxycholic acid ball-and-stick.png
Systematic (IUPAC) name
3α,7β-dihydroxy-5β-cholan-24-oic acid
1H-cyclopenta[a]phenanthren-17-yl)pentanoic acid
Clinical data
Trade names Actigall
AHFS/Drugs.com monograph
MedlinePlus a699047
Licence data US Daily Med:link
  • AU: B3
  • US: B
128-13-2 YesY
PubChem CID 31401
DrugBank DB01586 YesY
ChemSpider 29131 YesY
UNII 724L30Y2QR YesY
KEGG D00734 YesY
Synonyms ursodeoxycholic acid, Actigall, Ursosan, Urso, Urso Forte
PDB ligand ID IU5 (PDBe, RCSB PDB)
Chemical data
Formula C24H40O4
392.56 g/mol
Physical data
Melting point 203 °C (397 °F)
 YesY (what is this?)  (verify)

Ursodeoxycholic acid (INN, BAN and AAN), also known as ursodiol (USAN) and the abbreviation UDCA, from the root-word for bear urso, as bear bile contains the substance, is one of the secondary bile acids, which are metabolic byproducts of intestinal bacteria.

Endogenous effects[edit]

Primary bile acids are produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. When secreted into the intestine, primary bile acids can be metabolized into secondary bile acids by intestinal bacteria. Primary and secondary bile acids help the body digest fats. Ursodeoxycholic acid helps regulate cholesterol by reducing the rate at which the intestine absorbs cholesterol molecules while breaking up micelles containing cholesterol. Because of this property, ursodeoxycholic acid is used to treat (cholesterol) gallstones non-surgically. It is also used to relieve itching in pregnancy for some women who suffer obstetric cholestasis.

While some bile acids are known to be colon tumor promoters (e.g. deoxycholic acid), others such as ursodeoxycholic acid are thought to be chemopreventive, perhaps by inducing cellular differentiation and/or cellular senescence in colon epithelial cells.[1]

It is believed to inhibit apoptosis.[2]

Ursodeoxycholic acid has also been shown experimentally to suppress immune response such as immune cell phagocytosis. Prolonged exposure and/or increased quantities of systemic (throughout the body, not just in the digestive system) ursodeoxycholic acid can be toxic.[3]

Medical uses[edit]

A Cochrane review looking at primary biliary cirrhosis found that although ursodeoxycholic acid showed a reduction in liver biochemistry, jaundice, and ascites, it did not decrease mortality or liver transplantation.[4] Ursodiol is the only FDA approved drug to treat primary biliary cirrhosis.[5]

Ursodiol may be used for biliary stasis in pregnant women to relieve the symptoms of itching and decrease bile absorption.[6]

In absence of biochemical response to ursodeoxycholic acid, PBC is associated with an incidence of 20% hepatocellular carcinoma in 15 years.[7]

In children, its use is not licensed, as its safety and effectiveness are not established.[8][9][10]

In double the recommended daily dose ursodeoxycholic acid reduces elevated liver enzyme levels in those with primary sclerosing cholangitis, but its use was associated with an increased risk of serious adverse events (the development of cirrhosis, varices, death or liver transplantation) in patients who received ursodeoxycholic acid compared with those who received placebo). The risk was 2.1 times greater for death, transplantation, or minimal listing criteria in patients on ursodeoxycholic acid than for those on placebo. Serious adverse events, were more common in the ursodeoxycholic acid group than the placebo group.[11]

Mechanism of action[edit]

The drug reduces cholesterol absorption and is used to dissolve (cholesterol) gallstones in patients who want an alternative to surgery. The drug is very expensive, however, and if the patient stops taking it, the gallstones tend to recur if the condition that gave rise to their formation does not change. For these reasons, it has not supplanted surgical treatment by cholecystectomy.

Trade names[edit]

Ursodeoxycholic acid can be chemically synthesized and is marketed under multiple trade names, including Actigall, BILIVER, Coric, Deursil, Egyurso, Udiliv, UDOXYL, Urso, Urso Forte, Ursocol, Ursofalk, Ursosan and Ursoserinox.


  1. ^ Akare S, Jean-Louis S, Chen W, Wood DJ, Powell AA, Martinez JD (December 2006). "Ursodeoxycholic acid modulates histone acetylation and induces differentiation and senescence". International Journal of Cancer. Journal International Du Cancer 119 (12): 2958–69. doi:10.1002/ijc.22231. PMID 17019713. 
  2. ^ Amaral JD, Viana RJ, Ramalho RM, Steer CJ, Rodrigues CM (September 2009). "Bile acids: regulation of apoptosis by ursodeoxycholic acid". Journal of Lipid Research 50 (9): 1721–34. doi:10.1194/jlr.R900011-JLR200. PMC 2724780. PMID 19417220. 
  3. ^ Material Safety Data Sheet on Ursodiol MSDS. https://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/70916.htm
  4. ^ Gong Y, Huang ZB, Christensen E, Gluud C (2008). Gong, Yan, ed. "Ursodeoxycholic acid for primary biliary cirrhosis". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3): CD000551. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000551.pub2. PMID 18677775. 
  5. ^ Jackson H, Solaymani-Dodaran M, Card TR, Aithal GP, Logan R, West J (October 2007). "Influence of ursodeoxycholic acid on the mortality and malignancy associated with primary biliary cirrhosis: a population-based cohort study". Hepatology 46 (4): 1131–7. doi:10.1002/hep.21795. PMID 17685473. 
  6. ^ Mayo Clinic Staff. "Cholestasis of pregnancy: Treatment and Drugs". Mayo Clinic. 
  7. ^ Kuiper EM, Hansen BE, Adang RP, van Nieuwkerk CM, Timmer R, Drenth JP, Spoelstra P, Brouwer HT, Kuyvenhoven JP, van Buuren HR (December 2010). "Relatively high risk for hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis not responding to ursodeoxycholic acid". European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 22 (12): 1495–502. doi:10.1097/MEG.0b013e32834059e7. PMID 21389798. 
  8. ^ Kotb MA (July 2008). "Review of historical cohort: ursodeoxycholic acid in extrahepatic biliary atresia". Journal of Pediatric Surgery 43 (7): 1321–7. doi:10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2007.11.043. PMID 18639689. 
  9. ^ Paediatric Formulary Committee (2008). British National Formulary for Children 2008. London: Pharmaceutical Press. p. 91. ISBN 0-85369-780-9. 
  10. ^ Urso package insert. Birmingham, AL: Axcan Pharma U.S.; 2000 Jan.http://www.axcan.com/pdf/urso_patient_brochure.pdf
  11. ^ Lindor KD; Kowdley KV; Luketic VA et al. (September 2009). "High-dose ursodeoxycholic acid for the treatment of primary sclerosing cholangitis". Hepatology 50 (3): 808–14. doi:10.1002/hep.23082. PMC 2758780. PMID 19585548. 

External links[edit]