A proposal from the liver forum for the management of comorbidities in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis therapeutic trials

J Hepatol. 2023 Sep;79(3):829-841. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2023.03.014. Epub 2023 Mar 29.


The current document has been developed by the Liver Forum who mandated the NAFLD-Associated Comorbidities Working Group - a multistakeholder group comprised of experts from academic medicine, industry and patient associations - to identify aspects of diverse comorbidities frequently associated with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) that can interfere with the conduct of therapeutic trials and, in particular, impact efficacy and safety results. The objective of this paper is to propose guidance for the management of relevant comorbidities in both candidates and actual participants in NASH therapeutic trials. We relied on specific guidelines from scientific societies, when available, but adapted them to the particulars of NASH trials with the aim of addressing multiple interacting requirements such as maintaining patient safety, reaching holistic therapeutic objectives, minimising confounding effects on efficacy and safety of investigational agents and allowing for trial completion. We divided the field of action into: first, analysis and stabilisation of the patient's condition before inclusion in the trial and, second, management of comorbidities during trial conduct. For the former, we discussed the concept of acceptable vs. optimal control of comorbidities, defined metabolic and ponderal stability prior to randomisation and weighed the pros and cons of a run-in period. For the latter, we analysed non-hepatological comorbid conditions for changes or acute events possibly occurring during the trial, including changes in alcohol consumption, in order to detail when specific interventions are necessary and how best to manage concomitant drug intake in line with methodological constraints. These recommendations are intended to act as a guide for clinical trialists and are open to further refinement when additional data become available.

Keywords: NAFLD; NASH; arterial hypertension; diabetes; dyslipidemia; fibrosis; metabolic syndrome; obesity; randomized placebo-controlled trials; run-in period.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Comorbidity*
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / complications
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / epidemiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / therapy