Diabetes Rx Kept Fatty Liver at Bay

Liraglutide may clear nonalcoholic fatty liver disease from some patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) A medication used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes may have the power to combat another common condition.

A new study from the UK found that liraglutide (brand name Victoza) may effectively clear nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) from the bodies of some patients.

"Because there are no licensed treatments available for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, there is a large unmet clinical need," said lead study author Philip N. Newsome, PhD, a professor of experimental hepatology at the University of Birmingham, in a press release. "It is becoming ever more important that we find a treatment as the occurrence of fatty liver disease continues to grow — hand in hand with the problem of obesity."

NAFLD is the accumulation of fat in the livers of patients who drink little or no alcohol. For most patients, this condition causes no symptoms and no complications. But for others, the fat that accumulates can cause inflammation and scarring of the liver. This more serious form of NAFLD is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). At its most severe, NASH can progress to liver failure and death. No standard treatment for NAFLD currently exists.

For this study, Dr. Newsome and team looked at the effects of liraglutide on 52 overweight patients with NASH for 48 weeks. Liraglutide was administered in the form of a once daily self-injection.

These researchers found that treatment with liraglutide resulted in 40 percent of patients clearing any evidence of NASH from their livers. Only 10 percent of patients on placebo saw the same result. The patients on liraglutide also lost more weight than the patients on placebo during the study period.

Liraglutide was well-tolerated overall, but common side effects included diarrhea, constipation and loss of appetite.

This study was published online Nov. 19 in the journal The Lancet.

The Wellcome Trust, the National Institute of Health Research and Novo Nordisk funded this research. Liraglutide is manufactured and licensed by Novo Nordisk.

Dr. Newsome and colleagues disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 20, 2015
Last Updated:
November 29, 2015