Research indicates that nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) will be the leading cause of liver transplants for the general population in the U.S. this year. Driven by inflammation and resulting in fibrosis, NASH is usually a silent disease, which goes unnoticed for years until the liver becomes severely damaged. Currently recognized as the leading cause of liver transplants for females, there are several clinical trials and exploratory treatments in process. To better understand the disease and the resources available to clinicians to help manage patients with NASH, we sat down with Zachary Schwartz, MSc, Scientific Director at Clinical Care Options.
Future Healthcare Today (FHT): Thanks for talking with us, Zachary. First and foremost, what is NASH?
Zachary Schwartz (ZS): Thanks for having me. NASH, or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, is a fatty liver disease that is unrelated to alcohol consumption. The fat causes inflammation and damage in the liver.
FHT: How much of the population is affected by NASH and how does it impact quality of life?
ZS: The number of people affected by the disease is growing at an alarming rate. It’s growing in tandem with diabetes and obesity since these comorbidities increase a person’s risk for developing NASH. People usually don’t show symptoms in the initial stages–it’s usually found by accident. If the NASH progresses– which can take years– that’s when serious problems occur including fibrosis, cirrhosis, end stage liver disease, and liver cancer. It can ultimately result in the need for a liver transplant.
FHT: How do clinicians help patients manage and treat symptoms?
ZS: That’s the biggest problem clinicians face because, right now, there’s no FDA-approved treatment. The guidelines recommend weight loss, which can help to reduce long-term damage to the liver. They also recommend considering pioglitazone, which is an anti-diabetic medication, or vitamin E. Both of these are off label. However, this lack of treatments may change soon as data emerges on new compounds in clinical studies.
FHT: How is a resource like Clinical Care Options helpful for clinicians/advanced practicing clinicians in managing patients with NASH?
ZS: We have a wealth of resources for clinicians and APCs including recorded webinars and downloadable slides on both the basics of NASH and also the latest hot topics from conferences and experts. Most of our information focuses on two aspects of NASH: diagnosis and emerging treatment options. We’re here to help clinicians understand new and relevant research, who’s at risk, who should be screened and how to do it, and even how tests are changing based on emerging data. Above all, our main priority is to help clinicians and practitioners better educate and guide patients as they navigate the challenges associated with a disease like NASH.