A drug used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity could also reduce the risk of developing serious liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, research has shown.

The Swedish study follows earlier trials that indicated that Ozempic and other GLP1 agonists can lower the risk of liver damage.

Researchers from Karolinska Institutet studied people in Sweden with chronic liver disease and type 2 diabetes, comparing the effects of those treated with GLP1 agonists and those who were not.

They found there was a lower risk of going on to develop severe types of liver disease among those who took the drug over a long period of time.

Those who took it for 10 years reduced their risk by half.

The researchers say this could indicate that GLP1 agonists could be a way for people with concurrent type 2 diabetes to avoid developing severe liver disease.

First author Axel Wester, assistant professor at the Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, said: “Fatty liver disease is estimated to affect up to one in five people in Sweden, many of whom have type 2 diabetes, and about one in twenty develop severe liver disease.

“Our findings are interesting because there are currently no approved drugs to reduce this risk.

“The results need to be confirmed in clinical trials, but it will take many years for these studies to be completed.

“Therefore, we use existing registry data to try to say something about the effect of the drugs before that.”

A shortfall of the study is that researchers were unable to control for aspects where there was no data, such as blood tests which detail the severity of liver disease.

In response, the team has created HERALD, a database which gives them access to blood samples in Region Stockholm.

Last author Hannes Hagström, consultant in hepatology at the Karolinska University Hospital and adjunct professor at the Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, said: “As a next step, we will investigate the effect of GLP1 agonists in this database.

“If we get similar results, it would further strengthen the hypothesis that GLP1 agonists can be used to reduce the risk of severe liver disease.”

Read the full study in the journal Gut.

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