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Ozempic Eases Fatty Liver Disease in People Living With HIV
  • Posted March 7, 2024

Ozempic Eases Fatty Liver Disease in People Living With HIV

There's more good news around the diabetes and weight-loss drug Ozempic: It might help ease fatty liver disease in people living with HIV, new research shows.

Six months of weekly injections of Ozempic (semaglutide) resulted in an average 31% reduction of a harmful buildup of fat in the liver of HIV-positive patients, the study found.

What's more, the trial had "29% of participants experiencing a complete resolution of [fatty liver], meaning their liver fat decreased to 5% or less of overall liver content," according to a news release from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), which funded the research.

The clinical name for the condition targeted by the trial is metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD). It's the most common cause of liver disease in the United States and often occurs among people with obesity and/or type 2 diabetes.

People living with HIV can also be afflicted with MASLD. According to the NIAID, up to 40% of patients will develop MASLD, often as a side effect of treatment.

If left untreated, MASLD can lead to a need for liver transplant.

Because Ozempic helps ease obesity and type 2 diabetes, researchers led by Dr. Jordan Lake, of the University of Texas (UT) Health Houston, wondered if it might help folks with HIV.

The study involved 49 people living with HIV, 40 of who were taking HIV-suppressing drugs that contained some form of integrase strand transfer inhibitor medications. Those medications are known to have the side effect of weight gain, upping the odds that a patient might develop MASLD.

After six months of weekly self-injected doses of Ozempic, Lake's team used MRIs to examine the livers of the patients.

Besides the dramatic reduction in fat in the liver, patients also lost weight, improved their blood sugar control and showed improvements in their blood triglyceride levels, the study found.

"Semaglutide was generally well tolerated, with an adverse event profile similar to that observed in people without HIV," the NIAID news release noted. When side effects did occur they usually involved nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. No participants dropped out of the trial due to side effects.

The findings support the notion that Ozempic could bring boost liver health in folks living with HIV, researchers said.

Further research is underway to see if people with HIV react any differently to the drug (in terms of immune or inflammatory responses) than patients not infected by the virus.

The findings were presented Tuesday at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) meeting in Denver. Because the findings were presented at a meeting, they should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

Find out more about MASLD at the Cleveland Clinic.

SOURCE: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, news release, March 5, 2024

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