A diabetes drug called empagliflozin has succeeded in the experimental treatment of type II diabetes. The companies Eli Lilly and Co and Boehringer Ingelheim says they met their primary goal of significantly lowering blood sugar levels in four late stage trials involving more than 14,500 patients.
About 371 million people worldwide are estimated to be afflicted with diabetes and type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the fast growing disease, accounting for about 90 percent of all cases in the world. Diabetes is a chronic illness that can lead to heart attacks, blindness and kidney failure. Diabetes is exploding across the United States and in California alone the disease costs taxpayers and businesses roughly $24 billion annually. The situation has only gotten worse by 32 percent in the last 10 years, with one in seven Californians now having diabetes.
Martha Funnell, past chairwoman of the National Diabetes Education Program, tells the Los Angeles Times that diabetes is a stubborn adversary:
“The approach of telling people they need to lose weight and exercise is clearly not working.”
Thus drugmakers are struggling to find a more permanent solution. Reuters describes how this new diabetes drug functions:
“Empagliflozin belongs to a new class of diabetes treatments called SGLT2 inhibitors that work by blocking reabsorption of glucose by the kidney and increases glucose excretion in the urine to lower blood sugar.”
An advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is scheduled to discuss a Johnson & Johnson drug from the same class called canagliflozin, which is awaiting an approval decision. Empagliflozin may have a long road to tread because, according to Reuters, “Dapagliflozin, a drug from AstraZeneca Plc and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co that belongs to the same SGLT2 class, had earlier been rejected by the FDA over safety concerns, such as liver problems.”
Eli Lilly and Co and Boehringer Ingelheim said they expect to file for FDA regulatory review of empagliflozin in the United States, Europe and Japan in 2013 and will present detailed data from their diabetes drug trials.