Many people with type 2 diabetes are familiar with Byetta, a drug that helps raise their insulin levels. But a new study in the journal Diabetes Care suggests that the drug, known generically as exenatide, might have a role to play for people with type 1 diabetes as well.
The study only looked at 17 patients, so the results should be taken for what they are: a very early glimpse at a novel treatment. Regardless, the researchers found that the drug reduced “glucose excursions” (or unexpected high blood sugars) after meals and also delayed gastric emptying (meaning that food was absorbed more slowly by the body).
Great news, right? Well, the study had some downsides, too. Researchers included several type 1s with residual insulin production. Given the effects of Byetta on patients with type 2 diabetes, the scientists were obviously interested to see if the drug boosted insulin production.
It did not. Patients were given glucose tolerance tests, and none of them showed any increase in insulin production while on Byetta.
“The metabolic effects require oral absorption of nutrients, since we found no glycemic or hormonal effects of exenatide on the responses to intravenous glucose,” the research team wrote.
They continued: “”The most significant metabolic consequence of exenatide administration appears to involve the delay in absorption of nutrients and a reduced rise in glucose as a consequence.”
In other words, the drug may well help type 1s, but not in a dramatic or game-changing way. Drugs with similar effects-keeping down post-meal blood sugars-are already on the market.
Exenatide itself has been the focus of negative attention recently, with questions raised about its effects on the pancreas.
Researchers say more work and larger studies are needed to know for sure how the drug might help type 1s. And as more people take charge of their disease and embark upon tight control regimens, a range of treatments can only be a good thing.