The laxative drug lubiprostone improves intestinal permeability in healthy volunteers. We aimed to assess efficacy and safety of lubiprostone in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) with constipation via attenuation of intestinal permeability.
This randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2a study in Yokohama City University Hospital, Japan, recruited patients (aged 20–85 years) with NAFLD and constipation, alanine aminotransferase (ALT) at least 40 U/L, liver stiffness (≤6·7 kPa), and hepatic fat fraction at least 5·2% when assessed by MRI-proton density fat fraction. Eligible patients were randomly assigned (11:10:9) by a computer-based system and stratified by age and sex to receive 24 μg lubiprostone, 12 μg lubiprostone, or placebo, orally, once per day for 12 weeks. The primary endpoint was the absolute changes in ALT at 12 weeks. Efficacy analysis was done by intention to treat. Safety was assessed in all treated patients. This trial was registered with University Hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry (UMIN000026635).
Between March 24, 2017, and April 3, 2018, we screened 288 patients, of whom 150 (52%) were randomly assigned to treatment: 55 patients were assigned to receive 24 μg lubiprostone, 50 to receive 12 μg lubiprostone, and 45 to receive placebo. A greater decrease in the absolute ALT levels from baseline to 12 weeks was seen in the 24 μg lubiprostone group (mean −13 U/L [SD 19]) than in the placebo group (1 U/L ; mean difference −15 U/L [95% CI −23 to −6], p=0·0007) and in the 12 μg lubiprostone group (−12 U/L ) than in the placebo group (mean difference −13 U/L [–22 to −5], p=0·0023). 18 (33%) of 55 patients in the 24 μg group had at least one adverse event, as did three (6%) of 47 patients in the 12 μg group and three (7%) of 43 in the placebo group. The most common adverse event was diarrhoea (17 [31%] of patients in the 24 μg group, three [6%] in the 12 μg group, none in the placebo group). No life-threatening events or treatment-related deaths occurred.