1 Department of Hepatology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust , Southampton , UK.
2 Human Development and Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton , Southampton , UK.
3 National Institute for Health Research Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust , Southampton , UK.
Introduction: The pandemic of obesity over the last two decades has triggered a rise in the prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is associated with liver-related and cardiovascular complications. Despite this, the first licensed drug for NAFLD is yet to be approved. Given the scale of the problem and unmet needs, there is a myriad of agents in the development pipeline. Areas covered: We discuss promising agents in early phase clinical trials and categorize these agents based on their action on steatosis, steatohepatitis, and fibrosis. Furthermore, given the multisystemic nature of NAFLD, we consider the effects of these agents on the liver, their cardiometabolic effects, and the potential future strategies of combination therapies. Expert opinion: The paradigm for the ideal drug is the targeting of both steatohepatitis and fibrosis and the amelioration of cardiometabolic risk factors. New drugs that confer benefit in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) must also be tested for their effects on type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. The treatment of NASH will become analogous to the treatment of hypertension; it is very likely that multiple classes of drugs targeting different mechanistic pathways will be necessary because no single agent is likely to control all aspects of this complex liver disease.