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Oral Zinc Therapy for Wilson's Disease

GEORGE J. BREWER, M.D.; GRETCHEN M. HILL, Ph.D.; ANANDA S. PRASAD, M.D., Ph.D.; ZAFRALLAH T. COSSACK, Ph.D.; and PARVIZ RABBANI, Ph.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

This work was presented in part in November 1981 and November 1982 at meetings of the Central Society for Clinical Research, Chicago, Illinois.

▸Requests for reprints should be sent to George J. Brewer, M.D.; University of Michigan Medical School; 1241 East Catherine Street; Ann Arbor, MI 48109.


Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Allen Park, Michigan


© 1983 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1983;99(3):314-320. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-99-3-314
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Wilson's disease is an inherited disorder of copper accumulation that is fatal if untreated. Because penicillamine, the established treatment, is toxic in a substantial number of patients, we studied the efficacy of zinc treatment. We induced a negative or neutral copper balance in five out of five patients with Wilson's disease who were receiving no therapy other than zinc. Zinc acetate was given every 4 hours during the day, and the patient was not allowed to eat for 1 hour before and 1 hour after each dose. Oral zinc therapy, used according to our regimen, may now be considered in the treatment of patients with penicillamine intolerance. However, it is premature to convert patients to zinc therapy if they tolerate penicillamine well. The efficacy of zinc therapy in the initial removal of the copper burden in acutely ill patients with Wilson's disease has not yet been evaluated.

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