Drug developer BioKier currently testing a new oral formulation of type 2 diabetes treatment that may prove safer than injectable versions of the drug currently on the market.
The new drug, called BKR-013, is designed to prompt the body to regulate blood sugar levels on its own. BioKier’s inspiration comes from gastric bypass surgery. Patients who have undergone this surgery have lost weight from eating less because their stomachs are smaller and they feel full faster. Doctors have also noted that some gastric bypass patients who were diabetic before surgery returned to normal blood sugar levels after surgery. In some cases, researchers said, their diabetes went away entirely.
This effect was linked to a hormone in the abdomen responsible for regulating blood sugar levels, known as the glucagon-like peptide-1, or GLP-1. This hormone is triggered by the nutrients of food. BKR-013 aims to trigger the release of GLP-1 to prompt a patient’s body to regulate its own blood sugar levels.
Thus, BKR-013 is in a class of type 2 diabetes treatments known as GLP-1 agonists. If approved, it will not be the first GLP-1 drug on the market. Currently available GLP-1 drugs include Victoza (liraglutide), Byetta (exenatide), and Bydureon. These drugs, however, are all injectable, meaning patients have to give themselves shots once or twice a day on top of regular finger pricks to monitor blood sugar levels. BKR-013 is taken orally in pill form.
One note of concern with GLP-1 drugs is that they have been linked to acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. The new oral drug, however, has a short half-life, meaning it will disappear soon after a meal unlike the injectable drugs, which have longer-lived forms of GLP-1. Thus, it should carry fewer side effects and ultimately be safer, researchers say.
Only time will tell, however. BKR-013 is currently in human clinical trials. If the drug proves successful, it could take a bite out of the billion-dollar type 2 diabetes drug market.