Millions Live With “Silent” Disease Named “Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis”

An estimated 16 million Americans live with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH for short

NASH, or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, is part of the broader condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects roughly 64 million Americans.

Despite the term being coined in the 1980s, NASH was regarded as a non-threatening, mild condition. NASH is asymptomatic until the late stages, when it can lead to liver failure.

In recent years, it’s started to become increasingly more common with a direct link to lifestyle habits.

Individuals who are obese or have Type 2 diabetes are at increased risk. NASH is difficult to identify in patients during the early stages, and there is no conclusive treatment for it.

C.E.O. of Intercept Pharmaceuticals Mark Pruzanski said that the reason why NASH has been a “silent” disease thus far is simply “because they didn’t see it”.

The leading cause of liver transplants have been cryptogenic cirrhosis, a condition that causes irreparable liver damage.

“It turns out most if not the vast majority of cryptogenic cirrhotics are NASH patients.” Pruzanski said. However, by the time most individuals come in for a transplant, the liver is too damaged to see the tell-tale signs of NASH.

Lead drug candidate for treatment still several years away from approval

Intercept Pharmaceuticals developed an FXR agonist that is designed to work in individuals who have more advanced cases of NASH by promoting liver regeneration.

The drug is still several years away from approval, and key data regarding its effectiveness is expected in 2019.

Rohit Loomba, a professor of gastroenterology at the University of California called NASH “the biggest untapped matter in medicine”.

The recent revelation that NASH may be the root cause for most liver transplants has led to a rush to find new treatments.

NASH research is now a “hot area” for biotech investments.