Emricasan to prevent new decompensation in patients with NASH-related decompensated cirrhosis

Published:October 07, 2020DOI:


      • Pan-caspase inhibition with emricasan did not decrease clinical events in patients with decompensated NASH-cirrhosis.
      • Caspase inhibition did not affect MELD-Na scores, INR, total serum bilirubin or Child-Pugh score.
      • Emricasan was generally well-tolerated over the duration of treatment.

      Background & Aims

      Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is a leading cause of end-stage liver disease. Hepatic steatosis and lipotoxicity cause chronic necroinflammation and direct hepatocellular injury resulting in cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma. Emricasan is a pan-caspase inhibitor that inhibits excessive apoptosis and inflammation; it has also been shown to decrease portal pressure and improve synthetic function in mice with carbon tetrachloride-induced cirrhosis.


      This double-blind, placebo-controlled study randomized 217 individuals with decompensated NASH cirrhosis 1:1:1 to emricasan (5 mg or 25 mg) or placebo. Patients were stratified by decompensation status and baseline model for end-stage liver disease-sodium (MELD-Na) score. The primary endpoint comprised all-cause mortality, a new decompensation event (new or recurrent variceal hemorrhage, new ascites requiring diuretics, new unprecipitated hepatic encephalopathy ≥grade 2, hepatorenal syndrome, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis), or an increase in MELD-Na score ≥4 points.


      There was no difference in event rates between either of the emricasan treatment groups and placebo, with hazard ratios of 1.02 (95% CI 0.59–1.77; p = 0.94) and 1.28 (95% CI 0.75–2.21; p = 0.37) for 5 mg and 25 mg of emricasan, respectively. MELD-Na score progression was the most common outcome. There was no significant effect of emricasan treatment on MELD-Na score, international normalized ratio, total serum bilirubin, albumin level or Child-Pugh score. Emricasan was generally safe and well-tolerated.


      Emricasan was safe but ineffective for the treatment of decompensated NASH cirrhosis. However, this study may guide the design and conduct of future clinical trials in decompensated NASH cirrhosis.

      Lay summary

      Patients with decompensated cirrhosis related to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis are at high risk of additional decompensation events and death. Post hoc analyses in previous pilot studies suggested that emricasan might improve portal hypertension and liver function. In this larger randomized study, emricasan did not decrease the number of decompensation events or improve liver function in patients with a history of decompensated cirrhosis related to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Identifier


      Graphical abstract


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