Researchers Find Drug Can Help Reverse Liver Disease in HIV-Positive People

by Sam Cronin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday October 17, 2019

National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers have identified a new use for tesamorelin, an injectable hormone, which may help reverse liver disease in those living with HIV. The medication has been in use since 2010 to treat other complications from HIV, and now has been demonstrated to help non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

An NIH press release states that while this type of liver disease is usually associated with heavy alcohol use, "HIV medications and HIV itself are associated with gaining abdominal fat and may contribute to liver fat build-up."

"Many people living with HIV have overcome significant obstacles to live longer, healthier lives, though many still experience liver disease," said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "It is encouraging that tesamorelin, a drug already approved to treat other complications of HIV, may be effective in addressing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease."

The press release details the conditions of the trial which established the positive result in treating NAFLD.

"Thirty-one participants were randomized to receive daily 2-mg injections of tesamorelin, and 30 were randomized to receive identical-looking injections containing a placebo... After one year, participants receiving tesamorelin had better liver health than those receiving placebo..."

Given these results, investigators suggest expanding the indication for tesamorelin to include HIV-positive individuals with NAFLD. They also recommend additional research to test if a similar positive result can be drawn from a sample of non-HIV-positive people.

"Our hope is that this intervention may help people living with HIV, as well as benefit HIV-negative people with liver abnormalities," said NIAID senior research physician Dr. Colleen M. Hadigan. "Further research may inform us of the potential long-term benefits of this approach and develop formulations that can benefit everyone with liver disease, regardless of HIV status."

Read the full press release at the link above for the full details of the trial and the responses of the researchers involved.

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