New 'wonder pill' to control diabetes may come within 2 years

18 October 2017

British researchers have created a simple pill that has the power to lower blood sugar and promote weight loss in just three months.

In the UK, figures show the diabetes epidemic costs the National Health Service more than 10 billion a year, with a new diagnosis made every two minutes. No such figures are available for India, but it is known to be heading towards becoming the diabetes capital of the world, and insulin-based treatment remains too expensive for many.

The findings indicated that among patients with type 2 diabetes, the drug semaglutide taken by pill resulted in better glycemic control than a placebo group over 26 weeks. Trials showed up to 90 per cent of patients receiving semaglutide lowered their blood glucose levels and experienced ''meaningful'' weight loss.

The results from 632 patients indicated that semaglutide allowed 71 per cent of them to shed pounds. It is believed this is the first type 2 diabetes pill to instigate weight loss.

Study leader Melanie Davies, Professor of Diabetes Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: ''These results demonstrating semaglutide's ability to have a significant impact on lowering blood glucose and support weight loss when taken orally therefore are hugely promising.

''Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition with potentially devastating complications which is posing a major challenge to health services across the world because of the increasing numbers of people developing it.''

Although there are several treatments for type 2 currently available, many come with an increased risk of developing low blood sugar, a condition known as hypoglycaemia, and weight gain.

The pill could be available in as little as two years.

The oral formulation of semaglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists (a class of drugs used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes), may improve acceptance and adherence for some patients compared with the injectable formulation of GLP-1 receptor agonists.

Semaglutide is one of a number of relatively new injectable drugs, but it can also be taken as a pill. It works by stimulating insulin production and suppressing the secretion of the glucose-raising hormone glucagon, as well as lowering appetite.

Davies and colleagues randomly assigned 632 patients with type-2 diabetes and insufficient glycemic control to different doses and dose escalation of once-daily oral semaglutide; oral placebo; or once-weekly semaglutide by injection (subcutaneous) for 26 weeks. Clinically relevant (five per cent or more) weight loss was achieved in up to 71 per cent of patients receiving oral semaglutide.

The research is published in The Jama Network Journals.

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