A nationwide study conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, published in the journal Gut, reveals that Ozempic and other GLP1 agonists are linked to a decreased risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer development in individuals with type 2 diabetes and chronic liver disease.
While primarily prescribed for managing blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes, Ozempic has gained popularity as a weight-loss drug due to its appetite-reducing effects.
Reduced risk of liver damage
Early clinical trial results suggest that GLP1 agonists, such as Ozempic, may lower the risk of liver damage. To investigate further, researchers at Karolinska Institutet conducted a register-based study encompassing all individuals in Sweden with chronic liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Comparing those treated with GLP1 agonists to those who were not, the study revealed that long-term use of the drug was associated with a reduced risk of developing more severe liver conditions, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The findings suggest that GLP1 agonists could serve as an effective preventive treatment for severe liver disease in individuals with concurrent type 2 diabetes. Fatty liver disease, affecting up to one in five people in Sweden, is often linked to type 2 diabetes, and approximately one in twenty individuals with the condition progress to severe liver disease.
Axel Wester, the study’s first author and assistant professor at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge, Karolinska Institutet, emphasizes the significance of the findings, noting the lack of approved drugs to mitigate this risk. The study highlighted that continuous use of GLP1 agonists over a ten-year period resulted in a significant reduction in the likelihood of developing severe liver disease, underscoring the potential protective effect of these medications.
Results need to be confirmed
While the results await confirmation in clinical trials, the lengthy duration required for such studies led us to utilize existing registry data for an early assessment of the drugs’ effects,” says Axel Wester. He acknowledges a limitation in the method, as it cannot control for factors lacking data, such as detailed blood tests to describe the severity of liver disease. However, the researchers have developed a new database called HERALD, providing access to blood samples from patients in Region Stockholm.
As a next step, we plan to investigate the impact of GLP1 agonists using this database,” states the study’s last author, Hannes Hagström, a consultant in hepatology at Karolinska University Hospital and adjunct professor at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge, Karolinska Institutet. “Consistent results would further fortify the hypothesis that GLP1 agonists can effectively reduce the risk of severe liver disease.