Metformin in the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis: a pilot open label trial


Dr S. Nair, Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Div Abdominal Organ Transplantation, BH 309, 1514 Jefferson Hwy, New Orleans, LA 70121, USA.


Background : Insulin sensitizing agents may be useful in treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Aim : A pilot study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of metformin in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Methods : In an open labelled study, patients with histologically confirmed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were given metformin (20 mg/kg) for 1 year. Insulin resistance (by log homeostasis assessment model analysis for insulin resistance and Quantitative Insulin Sensitivity Check Index) and post-treatment hepatic histology were compared with pre-treatment histology.

Results : Fifteen patients completed 1 year of treatment. During the initial 3 months, there was improvement in alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase (P-value 0.01 and 0.02, respectively) along with improvement in insulin sensitivity. However, after 3 months, there was no further improvement in insulin sensitivity and there was gradual rise in aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase back to pre-treatment levels. Among the 10 patients with post-treatment biopsy, three (33%), showed improvement in steatosis, two (20%) showed improvement in inflammation score and one (10%) showed improvement in fibrosis.

Conclusion : Metformin treatment was associated with only a transient improvement in liver chemistries. A progressive, sustainable reduction in insulin sensitivity was not noted during treatment.