Pharmacologic therapy for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in adults

Pharmacotherapy. 2013 Feb;33(2):223-42. doi: 10.1002/phar.1190. Epub 2013 Jan 28.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by the accumulation of triglycerides in hepatocytes in the absence of excessive alcohol intake, ranging in severity from simple steatosis to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis can ultimately progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. NAFLD is associated with cardiometabolic risk factors and is the most common chronic liver disease among adults in the Western Hemisphere. Although simple steatosis is generally considered a self-limiting disease, evidence suggests an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and, less conclusively, mortality, among individuals with NAFLD and/or NASH. The current standard of care for the treatment of patients with NAFLD focuses on lifestyle interventions, particularly diet and exercise. There is a lack of consensus regarding the most effective and appropriate pharmacologic therapy. A PubMed search was conducted using the medical subject heading terms "fatty liver" and "steatohepatitis." This review focuses on the current pharmacologic options available for treating adults with NAFLD and/or NASH. Continued investigation of drugs or combinations that improve NAFLD progression is crucial. Clinicians, particularly pharmacists, must take an active role in identification and appropriate selection of pharmacotherapy for NAFLD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatty Liver / drug therapy*
  • Fatty Liver / epidemiology*
  • Fatty Liver / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Metformin / therapeutic use
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Thiazolidinediones / therapeutic use


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Metformin