Drug-Induced Liver Disease

  • Medical Author:
    Dennis Lee, MD

    Dr. Lee was born in Shanghai, China, and received his college and medical training in the United States. He is fluent in English and three Chinese dialects. He graduated with chemistry departmental honors from Harvey Mudd College. He was appointed president of AOA society at UCLA School of Medicine. He underwent internal medicine residency and gastroenterology fellowship training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Steatosis (fatty liver)

The most common causes of accumulation of fat in the liver are alcoholism and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) associated with obesity and diabetes. Drugs may cause fatty liver with or without associated hepatitis. Patients with drug-induced fatty liver may have only a few symptoms, or none. They typically have mild to moderate elevations in blood levels of ALT and AST, and also may develop enlarged livers. In severe cases, drug-induced fatty liver can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.

Drugs reported to cause fatty liver include total parenteral nutrition, methotrexate (Rheumatrex), griseofulvin (Grifulvin V), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), steroids, valproate (Depakote), and amiodarone (Cordarone).

In certain situations, fatty liver alone can be life threatening. For example, Reye's syndrome is a rare liver disease that can cause fatty liver, liver failure, and coma. It is believed to occur in children and teenagers with influenza when they are given aspirin. Another example of serious fatty liver is caused by high doses of intravenous tetracycline or amiodarone. Certain herbs (for example, the Chinese herb Jin Bu Huan, used as a sedative and pain reliever) also can cause serious fatty liver.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/16/2016
Next: Cirrhosis

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