A phase 2, proof of concept, randomised controlled trial of berberine ursodeoxycholate in patients with presumed non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and type 2 diabetes

Nat Commun. 2021 Sep 17;12(1):5503. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-25701-5.


Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is frequently associated with diabetes and may cause progressive liver disease. Current treatment options are limited. Here we report on a prospective, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of two doses of HTD1801 (berberine ursodeoxycholate, an ionic salt of berberine and ursodeoxycholic acid), versus placebo that was conducted in 100 subjects with fatty liver disease and diabetes (NCT03656744). Treatment was for 18 weeks with a primary endpoint of reduction in liver fat content measured by magnetic resonance imaging proton density fat fraction. Key secondary endpoints included improvement in glycemic control, liver-associated enzymes and safety. The pre-specified primary endpoint was met. Thus, subjects receiving 1000 mg twice a day of berberine ursodeoxycholate had significantly greater reduction in liver fat content than in placebo recipients (mean absolute decrease -4.8% vs. -2.0% (p = 0.011). Compared to placebo, subjects receiving this dose also experienced significant improvement in glycemic control as well as reductions in liver-associated enzymes and significant weight loss. Diarrhea and abdominal discomfort were the most frequently reported adverse events. We conclude that berberine ursodeoxycholate has a broad spectrum of metabolic activity in patients with presumed NASH and diabetes. It is relatively well tolerated and merits further development as a treatment for NASH with diabetes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / drug effects
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Berberine / adverse effects
  • Berberine / pharmacology
  • Berberine / therapeutic use*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Humans
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / complications*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / drug therapy*
  • Proof of Concept Study*


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Berberine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03656744