Most HIV people have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – there is no treatment or cure for it and will cause abnormalities in body composition and increases one’s risk for heart attack or stroke.
MGH Neuroendocrinologist Dr. Steven Grinspoon said it’s the first time there is a possible treatment that can decrease fat and stop the speed of fibrosis in NAFLD. He said it gives doctors an opportunity for early intervention when the condition is still benign.
Grinspoon and other researchers were able to produce the drug tesamorelin, which causes the production of a natural growth hormone that can decrease visceral fat by up to 20 percent. It’s also been seen in slowdown the advancement of scar tissue.
After a year of use, tesamoreline can cause a drop of 37 percent in liver fat levels. One in three subjects using the drug saw the liver fat fall below the NAFLD threshold. It’s a huge decrease in liver fat, which can also stop the development of fibrosis and decrease inflammation in a safe way.
Grinspoon said the drug uses a body’s natural hormone, ensuring there are no side effects. He said patients in the MGH clinic have been using the drug and have seen firsthand how effective it is.
The drug is given once a day by way of an injection, similar to how insulin is given.
Grinspoon said all other NAFLD therapies do not include any HIV patients, which he finds disturbing, as these are the patients that are in need of additional research.
NAFLD sufferers usually accumulate excess fat in their abdomen, and less fat builds in the legs. This can cause metabolism abnormalities.
According to studies, 40 percent of people with HIV also have NAFLD. If untreated, it can lead to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, which then can cause cirrhosis and liver failure.
Researchers are also looking at whether or not the drug can decrease fat and improve NAFLD in people who do not have HIV.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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