I. Veterans Affairs Cooperative Study of Polyenylphosphatidylcholine in Alcoholic Liver Disease: Effects on Drinking Behavior by Nurse/Physician Teams

Charles S. Lieber, David G. Weiss, Roberto Groszmann, Fiorenzo Paronetto, Steven Schenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Background: This multicenter prospective, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of polyenylphosphatidylcholine against the progression of liver fibrosis toward cirrhosis in alcoholics. Seven hundred eighty-nine alcoholics with an average intake of 16 drinks per day were enrolled. To control excessive drinking, patients were referred to a standard 12-step-based alcoholism treatment program, but most patients refused to attend. Accordingly, study follow-up procedures incorporated the essential features of the brief-intervention approach. An overall substantial and sustained reduction in drinking was observed. Hepatic histological and other findings are described in a companion article. Methods: Patients were randomized to receive daily three tablets of either polyenylphosphatidylcholine or placebo. Monthly follow-up visits included an extensive session with a medical nurse along with brief visits with a study physician (hepatologist or gastroenterologist). A detailed physical examination occurred every 6 months. In addition, telephone consultations with the nurse were readily available. All patients had a liver biopsy before entry; a repeat biopsy was scheduled at 24 and 48 months. Results: There was a striking decrease in average daily alcohol intake to approximately 2.5 drinks per day. This was sustained over the course of the trial, lasting from 2 to 6 years. The effect was similar both in early dropouts and long-term patients, i.e., those with a 24-month biopsy or beyond. Conclusions: In a treatment trial of alcoholic liver fibrosis, a striking reduction in alcohol consumption from 16 to 2.5 daily drinks was achieved with a brief-intervention approach, which consisted of a relative economy of therapeutic efforts that relied mainly on treatment sessions with a medical nurse accompanied by shorter reinforcing visits with a physician. This approach deserves generalization to address the heavy drinking problems commonly encountered in primary care and medical specialty practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1757-1764
Number of pages8
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Brief Invention
  • Control of Drinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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