New drug taken once daily shows promise for type 2 diabetes

Monday, June 8, 2009 — A study led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine researchers has shown that the investigational new drug liraglutide taken once daily may be safer and more effective than currently available medications for people with type 2 diabetes.

The study appears in the online edition of the journal Lancet, Monday June 8th, 2009.

Although there have been important advances in the development of new therapies for type 2 diabetes, a need remains for safe and effective anti-diabetic medications. Currently available diabetes drugs that boost insulin secretion or heighten insulin sensitivity can lead to extremely low blood glucose levels, or hypoglycaemia.

Liraglutide is a GLP-1 agonist, a new class of drugs that is fairly unique in diabetes as it is not only associated with glucose lowering but also weight loss. The drugs mirror the effects of naturally produced glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) which helps stimulate insulin secretion, reduces appetite and delays food absorption.

“If approved for use, liraglutide shows excellent promise to broadly improve many of the problems that most people with diabetes face – high blood sugar, overweight, high blood pressure and lipid problems,” said study leader Dr. John B. Buse, professor of medicine at UNC and past president of the American Diabetes Association.

Because GLP-1 analogs act to lower blood glucose only when levels are raised and not during periods of normal or low blood-glucose concentrations, the risk of developing hypoglycaemia should be lower that that of many anti-diabetic drugs currently in use.

In this study of 464 people whose type 2 diabetes was poorly controlled with standard drug therapy, liraglutide was compared to exenatide, currently the only approved GLP-1 diabetes drug in the U.S.

“We demonstrated that liraglutide administered once daily was associated with greater blood glucose lowering, identical weight loss, less hypoglycaemia, less persistent nausea as well as blood pressure lowering, and a modest benefit on blood lipid levels,” Buse said.

Estimates from the World Health Organization indicate that worldwide more than 170 million people have diabetes, of which type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% of all cases. Prevalence is predicted to continue growing, fueled by rising rates of obesity.

Media contact: Stephanie Crayton, (919) 966-2860 or scrayton@unch.unc.edu

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