Risk of heart attack, stroke and death are cut down by a new diabetes pill from Eli Lilly and Co and Boehringer Ingelheim. This is the first glucose-lowering drug to show such protective results in a large cardiovascular trial.
Apart from enhancing the image of the year-old drug, Jardiance, the results could raise the profile of rival new drugs in the same class of medicines called SGLT2 inhibitors, such as Johnson & Johnson's Invokana and AstraZeneca Plc's Farxiga.
The drug Jardiance (empagliflozin) was approved by U.S. regulators last August. Reabsorption of glucose in the kidney is inhibited by this drug by blocking the protein SGLT2, thereby lowering the overall sugar.
The favorable results for Jardiance were seen in a study of 7,000 patients with type 2 diabetes considered at high risk of heart attacks and stroke, said Lilly and privately held German drugmaker Boehringer. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes which is closely associated to obesity.
In patients who took Jaridance in combination with standard treatments, significantly fewer cardiac deaths, non-fatal heart attacks or non-fatal strokes were observed, in comparison with patients who took standard treatments alone. Standard treatments included statins and blood pressure drugs. Patients were followed an average of 3.1 years.
Around half of the deaths in people with type 2 diabetes are caused by cardiovascular disease and hence reducing cardiovascular risk is an essential component of diabetes care, said Lilly and Boehringer.
"This is a positive, and a first for the field of diabetes," Sanford Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson said in a research note. "(This) could give the drug - and the broader SGLT2 class in which it competes - a competitive leg up."
SGLT2 inhibitors modestly lower body weight and blood pressure and these effects could have helped Jardiance in the cardiovascular 'outcomes' trial.
At the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes on September 17 in Stockholm, the drug makers said they plan to release full results of the trial. Safety of Jardiance was consistent with results of previous trials. Its side effects have included dehydration, dizziness and low brood sugar.