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Pharmacological interventions for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review and network meta-analysis


Aim Several drugs have been used for treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The present study is a network meta-analysis of such drugs.

Design, setting and patients Randomised clinical trials comparing drug interventions in patients with NAFLD were analysed. OR and weighted mean difference (95 % CI) were the effect estimates for categorical and numerical outcomes, respectively. Random-effects model was used to generate pooled estimates. Surface under the cumulative ranking curve was used to rank the treatments.

Main outcome measures Proportion of responders was the primary outcome measure and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis scores, liver enzymes, lipid profile, body mass index, homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance, intrahepatic fat and adverse events were the key secondary outcomes.

Results 116 studies were included in the systematic review and 106 in the meta-analysis. Elafibranor, gemfibrozil, metadoxine, obeticholic acid, pentoxifylline, pioglitazone, probiotics, telmisartan, vildagliptin and vitamin E significantly increased the response rate than standard of care. Various other drugs were observed to modify the secondary outcomes favourably. Probiotics was found with a better response in children; and elafibranor, obeticholic acid, pentoxifylline and pioglitazone in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. The quality of evidence observed was either low or very low.

Conclusion In patients with NAFLD, several drugs have been shown to have variable therapeutic benefit. However, the estimates and the inferences should be considered with extreme caution as it might change with the advent of future head-to-head clinical trials.

  • clinical pharmacology
  • Lipid disorders
  • gastroenterology

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