Study: Popular diabetes drug may be effective against liver disease

After its success in diabetes and weight loss, a new potential therapeutic area has been identified for Ozempic and other GLP1 analogues. A new study links the drug type to a reduced risk of liver damage.

GLP1 analogues lower blood sugar levels and are primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes and, due to their ability to suppress appetite, as a weight loss treatment. The drugs are also being evaluated for their effectiveness in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, early clinical studies now suggest that GLP1 analogues may reduce the risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer in people with type 2 diabetes and chronic liver disease.

In a registry-based study, researchers at the Karolinska Institutet included all people in Sweden with chronic liver disease and type 2 diabetes. They subsequently compared the risk of severe liver damage in those who were treated with GLP1 analogues and those who were not. The results showed that those who took the drug for longer were less likely to later develop more severe forms of liver disease, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

“Fatty liver disease is estimated to affect up to one in five people in Sweden, many of whom have type 2 diabetes, and about one in twenty develop severe liver disease. Our findings are exciting as there are currently no approved drugs to reduce this risk,” says first author Axel Wester, Associate Professor at the Department of Medicine at KI in Huddinge, in a press release.

He notes, however, that the results need to be confirmed in clinical trials, which will take years to complete.

The “Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists and risk of major adverse liver outcomes in patients with chronic liver disease and type 2 diabetes” study has been published in the journal Gut.

The research was mainly funded by Region Stockholm (CIMED), the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) and the Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden). The research team has been funded by Astra Zeneca, EchoSens, Gilead, Intercept, MSD, Novo Nordisk and Pfizer, although not for the current study.

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