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Diabetes Drugs Cut Sugar and Weight

Two new experimental drugs, the firsts in a new class of type 2 diabetes drugs, seem to help older diabetes drugs lower patients’ blood sugar, with the added bonus of a little weight loss.

The once-a-day medications work by increasing the levels of a hormone that triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin to process blood sugar while simultaneously signaling the liver to stop making glucose. They act by blocking the production of an enzyme called DPP-4 that normally inactivates that hormone.

Medical experts say the positive effects of the drugs, coupled with fewer of the negative effects associated with other diabetes treatments, is what sets the drugs apart from other drugs for diabetes. Doctors further say that the drugs’ effects can be equal to the combined effects of three to four classes of drugs used today. However, they caution that the expected cost of these two drugs could likely curtail their use.

Pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and Novartis AG have both filed for regulatory approval to be able to sell the drugs.

Merck said its pill,Januvia or sitagliptin, has been shown in a yearlong clinical trial to have lowered blood sugar HbA1 c levels by 0.67 percent, just as much as the olderdrug glipizide. In the said trial, roughly two-thirds of patients given sitagliptin reached the 7 percent goal set by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Aside from lowering blood sugar, Merck said sitagliptin also caused weight loss among patients who also experienced fewer episodes of excessively low blood sugar than those on glipizide.

Novartis, on the other hand, said its pill, Galvus or vildagliptin, was shown in a six-month trial to reduce blood sugar HbA1c levels by 1.9 percent when used with another older drug, pioglitazone. Of the patients given vildagliptin, nearly two-thirds or 65 percent reached the ADA recommended blood sugar level. Patients given the drug were also shown in the said trial and a second clinical trial, to have either lost some weight or showed no significant weight gain.

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