Once a week treatment for type 2 diabetes in the pipeline

Canadian researchers have found that a weekly treatment for type 2 diabetes has proved safe and effective for patients.

In a trial involving 259 volunteers, researchers from the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto, used a version of a previously available twice daily treatment called exenatide, which works by mimicking the glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), a hormone that is naturally produced in the gut after eating.

For the trial a slow-acting formulation was used and was found to be more effective than the original at keeping glucose levels in the blood under control, and was also more convenient to use.

Researchers Dr. Daniel Drucker says there is currently no therapy available for type 2 diabetes that patients can receive once a week, but the new formulation will need further clinical trials before being licensed for use by patients.

Millions around the world suffer from type 2 diabetes which is considered to be in many respects to be a lifestyle condition, but experts believe many more are unaware they have the disease.

Diabetes means the body is unable to properly regulate blood sugar levels and the resulting peaks and troughs which then occur without that regulation can lead to damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and arteries.

For the six-month study period, half of the 259 patients received the new weekly injections while the rest received injections of the previous, twice-daily version.

The researchers found that of those receiving the weekly dose, 77% kept their blood sugar levels below a benchmark set by the researchers, while only 61% of the patients receiving daily injections reached the same benchmark.

The patients on the newer weekly treatment also suffered fewer side-effects and experts say as well as being easier, there was also the advantage of both improved glucose control and good gastrointestinal tolerability and no increased risk of hypoglycemia.

The new version of exenatide is the first in a new class of long-acting drugs that mimic the action of GLP-1 and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute says the new once weekly diabetes treatment could be reviewed as early as 2009 by Canadian regulatory authorities.

The research is published in the Lancet.

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