A new drug cocktail combining two medications that mimic naturally occurring hormones appears to work better than single hormone drugs in treating type 2 diabetes and obesity, according to data from a small clinical trial.
The breakthrough treatment is a dual-action molecule that targets receptors for hormones known as GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) and GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) that play an important role in regulating the body’s metabolism.
GLP-1 medications currently marketed in the United States include Novo Nordisk’s Victoza, and Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca’s Byetta. GIP is not currently marketed as a drug. Researchers believe that by using the two hormones GLP-1 and GIP in the same treatment, dosages of GLP-1 could be reduced resulting in fewer side effects.
To determine efficacy, researchers conducted studies on laboratory mice, rats and monkeys and conducted a small clinical study involving 53 obese people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that the experimental molecule was considerably more effective than existing medications in controlling blood sugar levels and reducing weight. In some tests, the drug showed similar results as 10 times greater dosages of already approved GLP-1 drugs.
Lowering dosages and cutting down on potential side effects is promising news considering many type 2 diabetes medications have been associated with serious adverse effects. For example, recent studies found that the GLP-1 drug Byetta has been associated with a serious inflammation of the pancreas including acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
“I believe a combination of things will be necessary to reach the efficacy and power to really cure and prevent type 2 diabetes and obesity,” researcher Matthias Tschoep of the Institute for Diabetes and Obesity at the Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich told Reuters. “We are using mother nature’s toolkit and we’re hoping to find the right combination that will produce a breakthrough.”