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The Growing Number of Diabetes Therapies

While there is still no cure for diabetes, there is a growing number of therapies available to those battling the disease-and even more are in the works, according to experts who spoke at a recent symposium.

“There are many new targets being developed and there are many new drugs on the way,” said Dr. John L. Leahy, Professor of Medicine at the University of Vermont, as part of a recent American Diabetes Association event in Chicago that brought together experts from across the globe to discuss emerging therapies.

Among the most promising, Leahy said, are free fatty acid receptors, which have been shown to boost insulin secretion, but only when glucose levels are high, lessening the risks of hypoglycemia. In clinical trials, one drug in that class, Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ TAK-875, substantially reduced A1c levels, making it a promising option in years to come.

Slowing Down Sugar

In addition to insulin secretion, targeting the absorption and secretion of glucose through alpha-glucosidase inhibitors has also shown promise, though the side effects of such drugs, which include gas and diarrhea, have prevented them from being a top treatment option, experts said.

Alpha-glucosidase is one of the enzymes responsible for breaking down carbs into sugar. Inhibitors work by slowing the digestion of complex carbs, resulting in fewer spikes in blood glucose levels.

A trial with 7,500 participants is currently underway, according to Dr. Bernard Zinman, a clinician scientist at the University of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Medical Center.

“A positive result could reinvent this agent as something we would have to take very seriously,” he said. “Targeting glucose absorption and secretion is a reasonable strategy. We need more long-term studies to better understand their role in diabetes management.”

More on Insulin

When the body becomes resistant to insulin and fails to react when it’s secreted, blood sugar levels can soar, leading to a diagnosis of diabetes. The most common cause, according to Dr. Ahb A. Yahrani, a clinician scientist at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, is obesity, so treating weight problems can send insulin resistance into remission.

Drugs that enhance the action of insulin receptors, which stimulate activity that slows the breakdown of glucose, may also be beneficial, but human testing is a long way off, Tahrani said.

Inflammation

With more studies suggesting that inflammation could be the cause of diabetes, drugs that reduce such inflammation could go a long way toward treating the disease, experts say.

One drug, salsalate, has been shown to treat inflammation as well as boost the effectiveness of insulin, according to Dr. Robert R. Henry, Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Diego.

It has been traditionally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but the results of a one-year study recently showed that salsalate users saw their A1c levels reduced by as much as 37 percent.

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