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Current and upcoming pharmacotherapy for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  1. Yaron Rotman1,
  2. Arun J Sanyal2
  1. 1Liver and Energy Metabolism Unit, Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Department of Internal Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, Virginia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yaron Rotman, Liver and Energy Metabolism Unit, Liver Diseases Branch, NIDDK, NIH, 10 Center Drive, Building 10, Room 9C434, MSC 1800, Bethesda, MD 20892-1800, USA; rotmany{at}


Given the high prevalence and rising incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the absence of approved therapies is striking. Although the mainstay of treatment of NAFLD is weight loss, it is hard to maintain, prompting the need for pharmacotherapy as well. A greater understanding of disease pathogenesis in recent years was followed by development of new classes of medications, as well as potential repurposing of currently available agents. NAFLD therapies target four main pathways. The dominant approach is targeting hepatic fat accumulation and the resultant metabolic stress. Medications in this group include peroxisome proliferator-activator receptor agonists (eg, pioglitazone, elafibranor, saroglitazar), medications targeting the bile acid-farnesoid X receptor axis (obeticholic acid), inhibitors of de novo lipogenesis (aramchol, NDI-010976), incretins (liraglutide) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-21 or FGF-19 analogues. A second approach is targeting the oxidative stress, inflammation and injury that follow the metabolic stress. Medications from this group include antioxidants (vitamin E), medications with a target in the tumour necrosis factor α pathway (emricasan, pentoxifylline) and immune modulators (amlexanox, cenicriviroc). A third group has a target in the gut, including antiobesity agents such as orlistat or gut microbiome modulators (IMM-124e, faecal microbial transplant, solithromycin). Finally, as the ongoing injury leads to fibrosis, the harbinger of liver-related morbidity and mortality, antifibrotics (simtuzumab and GR-MD-02) will be an important element of therapy. It is very likely that in the next few years several medications will be available to clinicians treating patients with NAFLD across the entire spectrum of disease.


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  • Contributors YR: manuscript design, writing, revision and approval of final version. AJS: manuscript design, revision and approval of final version.

  • Funding NIDDK Intramural Research Program.

  • Competing interests YR is funded by the NIDDK intramural Research Program.

  • AJS has stock options in Genfit. He has served as a consultant to AbbVie, Astra Zeneca, Nitto Denko, Nimbus, Salix, Tobira, Takeda, Fibrogen, Immuron, Exhalenz and Genfit. He has been an unpaid consultant to Intercept and Echosens. His institution has received grant support from Gilead, Salix, Tobira and Novartis. None of these are related to the current study. He is the president and CMO of Sanyal Biotechnologies.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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