Johnson & Johnson’s new diabetes drug shows promise in late-stage clinical trials
A new experimental drug made by Johnson & Johnson has demonstrated a better ability to lower blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes than Merck’s Januvia and the older, more conventional drug glimepiride, data from a couple of late-stage clinical trials of the drug have shown.
Results of the studies, which were conducted over 52 weeks and involved more than 10,000 patients, also found the new Johnson & Johnson drug, canagliflozin, contributed to weight loss in patients better than Januvia and glimepiride (marketed as Amaryl and GLIMY) and was linked to fewer incidents of hypoglycemia, a dangerous drop in blood sugar level, than glimepiride.
The weight loss benefit of canagfilozin could prove to be a major selling point should the drug receive the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval. Obesity is not just one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes, but some older diabetes medicines often lead to weight gain.
News of canagliflozin’s promise comes amid growing controversy over Japanese drug maker Takeda’s Actos, another type 2 diabetes treatment that was once one of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. After more than 10 years of aggressive marketing and blockbuster sales, clinical researchers linked Actos to a significantly heightened risk of bladder cancer.
More than 150 lawsuits have been filed against Takeda by former Actos patients, many alleging the company knew about the drug’s bladder cancer risks but failed to warn the public. Some legal experts expect the number of Actos lawsuits to reach into the thousands as more and more injured patients step forward with claims.
Whether Johnson & Johnson’s canagliflozin provides a better, safer option than other type 2 diabetes drugs may ultimately lie outside the scope of limited clinical trials to determine. As Actos and GlaxoSmithKline’s type 2 diabetes drug Avandia have demonstrated, serious health risks often become apparent only after a drug has been aggressively marketed and prescribed to millions of patients, even if those risks may have been apparent to manufacturers in early clinical trials.
So far, researchers have associated canagliflozin with higher rates of relatively mild reactions, including genital infections, urinary tract infections, and need for increased urination.