Nearly a decade ago, a wave of new diabetes drugs hit the market with promises of lowering blood sugar. While an admirable goal, the first attempts came far short from reducing some of the scariest statistics for type II diabetes patients. Namely, half of all patients with type II diabetes will die from complications from cardiovascular disease. On their 65th birthday, those odds go up to 70%.
In 2016, companies reemerged to reveal how a couple of new medications were dropping the rates in the double digits. The first drug, empagliflozin, was approved in 2014 as a prescription medication to improve glycemic control. A study of the drug’s benefits in 2015 yielded significant results: patients showed reduction in non-fatal heart attack or non-fatal stroke by 14 percent when added to standard of care. This showed to reduce CV death by 38% and all mortality by 32%. This past June, the FDA Advisory Committee recommended the approval of the cardiovascular indication of empagliflozin. In the same month, liraglutide, an injected medicine approved in 2010, also showed a marked reduction in major CV events by 13% in CV death by 22%, and all mortality by 15%.
While the mechanisms are still being researched, empaglifozin showed to modify the progression of heart disease by working with the kidney, while liraglutide has a comprehensive effect on many organs.
Given the positive results, experts predict 2017 will mark a complete shift in the lineup of medicines prescribed for diabetes patients, as well as a new wave of research into new avenues to target Type II diabetes and its comorbidities. With the contribution of these new drugs, more patients will live to see the benefits.
Where Are They Now
After recommending its approval, the FDA Advisory Committee approved the cardiovascular indication of empagliflozin in January 2017. And in June 2017, the FDA Advisory Committee voted in favor of the cardiovascular indications for liraglutide. In October 2018, the FDA approved canagliflozin, an oral diabetes drug, to reduce the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) including stroke, heart attack and cardiac death in patients with type II diabetes and established cardiovascular disease. Results of a large clinical trial, released November 2018, showed significant reduction in risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart-related death in type II diabetes patients using another popular diabetes drug, dulaglutide. Results and approvals such as these suggest diabetes drugs for the reduction of cardiovascular disease and death are on the up and up.