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Experimental drug may help disease related to obesity

“The implications of this trial are, we could wipe out the fat very early in the course of this disease before it becomes a real threat to the liver," Dr. Arun Sanyal said.

Published: November 24, 2023 3:14pm

A study on an experimental drug called retatrutide showed promising results in combating fatty liver disease.

More than 85% of the obese participants reduced their liver fat to the point they were no longer classified as having the disease in a clinical trial of the medication, according to the Virginia Commonwealth hepatologist leading the study.

The drug was developed by the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. 

The findings were shared at a Nov. 13 meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in Boston.

“The implications of this trial are, we could wipe out the fat very early in the course of this disease before it becomes a real threat to the liver, and, potentially, reduce the long-term cardiac, metabolic, renal, and liver-related harm from obesity. We are encouraged by these results and how they can potentially help tackle a disease that is currently without any approved therapies,” Dr. Arun Sanyal, director of the VCU Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health, said in a statement.

Retatrutide is being studied as a potential treatment for obesity. Its dose–response relationships with respect to side effects, safety, and efficacy for the treatment of obesity are not known. A study on a larger phase two trial of the drug was published in the New England Journal of Medicine last June, and its phase 3 clinical trial began in August.

The U.S. weight loss market grew nearly 15% last year, after a decline in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Beginning in 2022, the industry has seen soaring demand for new obesity drugs, such as Wegovy and Saxenda.

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