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Liver injury due to prescription and nonprescription medications is an expanding public health concern in the United States, with drug-induced liver injury (DILI) being the single most common reason for regulatory actions instituted by the Food and Drug Administration against certain medications and supplements.
A 69-year-old Latino man was referred to Hepatology Clinic for urgent evaluation of new onset jaundice, nausea and fatigue associated with a >40-fold increase in his transaminase levels and elevated INR and alkaline phosphatase. The patient had received a new prescription for varenicline to aid with smoking cessation approximately 3 weeks prior to his evaluation in Hepatology Clinic. Within 5days of starting the varenicline, the patient developed new onset of nausea, vomiting, malaise and deep jaundice. The varenicline was discontinued on day 5 by the patient. Hepatologic evaluation revealed no evidence of acute viral hepatitis, autoimmune, metabolic or alcohol-related liver disorders. The patient’s past medical history was notable, however, for chronic hepatitis C. His liver enzymes and synthetic function completely normalized 9weeks after discontinuation of the varenicline.
This report represents the second documented cases of drug-induced liver injury related to varenicline therapy, highlighting the need for clinician awareness regarding potential hepatotoxicity of varenicline, particularly among patients with pre-existing liver disease.