People with diabetes may soon be able to swap their tablets for creams and ointments

People with Diabetes may soon be able to swap their tablets for creams and ointments according to new research launched today at the British Pharmaceutical Conference.

This news will come as a relief for type 2 diabetes patients who are routinely treated with oral hypoglycaemic drugs to lower their blood glucose levels. These can cause severe gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Because of the unpleasant side-effects of these diabetes drugs, some patients are reluctant to take their medicines. Researchers in Egypt believe that giving these drugs through the skin could improve the situation, helping reduce the risk of the long-term vascular complications of diabetes.

Professor Hussein Ammar, from the department of pharmaceutical sciences at the National Research Centre in Cairo, said that his team has been working with a drug called glipizide, a commonly used hypoglycaemic agent. They prepared various ointment and cream formulations and then tested whether the drug was able to pass through the skin to exert its therapeutic effect.

The results showed that two formulations were shown to have a sustained effect on glucose levels for around 48 hours when applied to rats. “The results lead us to believe that topical administration is possible,” Professor Ammar reported.

He sees value in this type of product. “Ointments, creams and gels are acceptable formulations and have the advantages of ease of preparation and low cost. A transdermal patch might also be an option.”

The long-term complications of diabetes include eye problems, kidney problems and cardiovascular disease. These complications are known to be reduced with strict control of blood glucose levels (glycaemic control). The researchers believe that a topical formulation that provides a steady release of drug into the blood will help to maintain good glycaemic control and, in turn, might help to reduce the risk of longterm complications.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) is the regulatory and professional body for pharmacists in England, Scotland and Wales. The primary objective of the RPSGB is to lead, regulate and develop the pharmacy profession.

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