Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) keeps testing its experimental Type 2 diabetes drug albiglutide against other already approved diabetes drugs, but the results are less than appealing. The latest study, pitting albiglutide against Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ Actos, showed GSK’s drug did not control blood sugar better than Actos. Plus, albiglutide gave patients more gastrointestinal distress than the once-blockbuster medication Actos.
It’s a hard pill to swallow for GSK, especially since another of its eight late-stage clinical studies revealed albiglutide did not work as well as Novo Nordisk’s Victoza. The one benefit albiglutide does have is that it is taken once weekly, as opposed to once-daily treatments already flooding the market.
GSK had the world’s best selling Type 2 diabetes pill Avandia in its war closet until 2010, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) severely restricted the medication based on reports of fatal heart attacks. Avandia is in a class of drugs known as TZDs, the same class as Actos, which in 2011 the FDA warned increased the risk for bladder cancer.
GSK’s new attempt at a Type 2 diabetes drug, albiglutide, is in a class of diabetes medications known GLP-1 agonists. Others in this class include Byetta and Victoza. These drugs are known as incretin mimetics, which also includes a class of Type 2 diabetes drugs known as DPP-4 inhibitors. Brand names include Januvia. Recent studies show that incretin mimetics may increase the risk for inflammatory pancreatic effects including acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Some studies have also linked these drugs to an increased risk for thyroid cancer.