Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and steatohepatitis: State of the art on effective therapeutics based on the gold standard method for diagnosis

Maryam Mahjoubin-Tehran, Antonio De Vincentis, Dimitri P. Mikhailidis, Stephen L. Atkin, ... Amirhossein Sahebkar


The prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NAFLD/NASH) is increasing. NAFLD/NASH may progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. However, most patients with NAFLD/NASH will die from a vascular cause. There are no approved pharmacological treatments for NASH/NAFLD. Many clinical trials have been, or are being, undertaken; however, the challenge is the assessment of the clinical endpoint. The main objective of this narrative review was to evaluate the efficacy of drugs used in clinical trials for the treatment of NAFLD/NASH that included a liver biopsy as the gold standard.


A literature search was conducted using 3 databases (PubMed, Scopus, and Google Scholar) to identify the clinical trials that included liver biopsy assessment before and after treatment.


Interventional clinical trials (n = 33) involving 18 different agents, alone and in combination, were identified. Pioglitazone is the only agent that has shown consistent benefit and efficacy in clinical trials. Pentoxifyllinerosiglitazone, and ursodeoxycholic acid had both positive and negative results from clinical trials. There is also evidence for vitamin E and metformin. Other drugs, including bicyclol, cysteamine bitartrate, l-carnitine, liraglutideobeticholic acidoligofructoseselonsertibsilymarin, and statins, each had a single clinical study.


In summary, the available molecules demonstrated a significant improvement in NASH and/or liver fibrosis in a minority of patients; thus, other drugs should be identified, possibly those acting on alternative pathophysiological pathways, and tested for their safety and efficacy.