London: An experimental diabetes drug shows promise in lowering blood sugar as much as an older generic medicine with less side effects, a new study has found.
The research by a team from the University of Michigan Medical School in the US found the drug, called TAK-875, helps improve glycaemic (blood sugar) control as effectively as the sulphonylurea glimepiride, a common drug used to treat type 2 diabetes.
It also has a significantly lower risk of hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, and few side effects, according to the results of a phase 2 randomised trial published in The Lancet.
In the trial of 426 type 2 diabetic patients, TAK-875 reduced blood sugar below a pre-determined level in as much as 48 per cent of those receiving it after 12 weeks, compared with 40 per cent of those who got the older drug glimepiride.
The incidence of hypoglycaemia was significantly lower (just two per cent) for all doses of TAK-875 compared with glimepiride (19 per cent).
The overall incidence of treatment-related side effects was similar for the TAK-875 groups and placebo groups (about 49 per cent), but it was higher in the glimepiride group (61 per cent) because of the increased risk of hypoglycaemia.
"In view of the frequent hypoglycaemia after treatment with sulfonylureas, the low risk of hypoglycaemia after treatment with TAK-875 suggests that there may be therapeutic advantage of targeting FFAR1 in treating people with type 2 diabetes," the authors said.
"We are truly excited about the potential of TAK-875 and are eager to conduct larger trials to find out how well this drug works, how safe it is and what its place is in the treatment of diabetes," they added.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 per cent of the 285 million people worldwide currently living with the disease. It is primarily caused by a lack of response to insulin which leads to high blood sugar and a variety of chronic conditions.
Free fatty acid receptor 1 (FFA1), also known as G protein-coupled receptor 40 (GPR40), plays a vital role in stimulating and regulating the production of insulin. It works by boosting the release of insulin when glucose and fatty acids rise in the blood, such as after a meal.
The release of insulin results in a fall in blood glucose levels. Drugs that activate the FFAR1 receptor have the potential to help diabetics release more insulin and improve control of blood glucose levels.
TAK-875 is a novel oral medication designed to enhance insulin secretion in a glucose-dependant manner, which means it has no effect on insulin secretion when glucose levels are normal, and as such has the potential to improve the control of blood sugar levels without the risk of hypoglycaemia.