Some Diabetes Drugs May Be Bad for Patients

Although a group of treatments for diabetes is in common use, it may help worsen the problem it was designed to solve, according to a new study.

The researchers, from St. John’s College of the University of Cambridge, UK, say that while their results are not conclusive, they point to a lack of complete information about the potential impact of a group of treatments known as GLP-1 agonists, or incretin mimetics.

The survey found that one such treatment has the hitherto unrecognized potential to help release sugars into the blood – exactly the opposite of the intended effect.

The paper, which is published in The Journal Of Biological Chemistry, stresses that these are only initial findings, and that more in-depth research will be needed before “definitive conclusions can be drawn” about the existing results.

The researchers also say that there is no evidence that existing GLP-1 agonists are in any way dangerous for patients, but they do call for a more comprehensive approach to testing new drugs of this type before they go on the market.

The work was carried out by a team of researchers, led by College Fellow Graham Ladds, and involving other academics at the Universities of Cambridge and Warwick. Dr Ladds said: “What we have shown is that we need a more complete understanding of how anti-diabetic drugs interact with receptors in different parts of our bodies.”

“GLP-1 agonists clearly benefit many patients with Type 2 diabetes and there is no reason to presume that our findings outweigh those benefits. Nevertheless, we clearly lack a full picture of their potential impact. Understanding that picture, and being able to consider all the components of target cells for such treatments, is vital if we want to design drugs that have therapeutic benefits for diabetes patients, without any unwanted side effects.”

GLP-1 agonists are a group of injectable drugs which are normally prescribed to patients who have not been able to bring their condition under control through lifestyle changes or with first-stage, tablet treatments.

“The work shows that, contrary to our previous assumptions, glucagon receptors can potentially be activated by anti-diabetic treatments,” Ladds added. “To date, very little work has been done on RAMPs, but they clearly play an important part in the process of regulating blood sugar, which is core to helping people with diabetes. The study shows that there is a critical need to take this into account when designing new therapeutics.”

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