London, Nov 20: A drug currently used in the treatment of Type II diabetes can also be effective in clearing fatty liver disease from some patients, a significant research has found.
According to the team from University of Birmingham, the findings present the possibility of new therapies for patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, for which there is no current licensed treatment.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) describes a wide range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat within the liver cells, usually seen in people who are overweight or obese.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the more serious form of NAFLD and can ultimately increase the risk of total liver failure which means a transplant is required.
The trial demonstrated that 48 weeks of treatment with the drug named liraglutide resulted in four out of 10 patients clearing evidence of NASH from their livers.
Because there are no licensed treatments available for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, there is a large unmet clinical need.
"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. This study provides confidence in the further exploration of this class of drugs in NASH," explained professor Philip Newsome, lead investigator from University of Birmingham.
Additionally, patients in the active treatment group showed a higher level of weight loss (over five kg) whilst receiving medication, said the team in a paper published in the journal The Lancet.
Liraglutide is manufactured and licenced by Novo Nordisk and is currently licenced for the treatment of Type II diabetes.
It is administered in the form of an injection which the patient self-injects, which means the treatment could be administered at home.
The trial was led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Birmingham Liver Biomedical Research Unit (BRU) in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust and Novo Nordisk and other sites at universities in Nottingham, Hull and Leeds.