This weeks medical news praises research scientists and looks at an exciting new treatment available for diabetes patients that will surely change their lives.
It has been announced this week that a new weekly injection has been approved to replace the twice daily jab which currently treats type 2 diabetes. This news comes with great elation to the 2.5 million people in the UK suffering with type 2 diabetes and a further 850,000 undiagnosed sufferers. Whilst the new injection is not curative, it is sure to improve the quality of life of diabetes patients who normally require two injections a day. Imagine the difference a weekly jab will make.
About Diabetes Type 2
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic, incurable condition which is caused by too much of the sugar glucose in the blood. As a result of the increase in sugar, sufferers of diabetes experience the following common symptoms: increased hunger (polyphagia), polydipsia (increased thirst) and polyuria (increased urination) (1).
There are two most common types of diabetes. The main differences between them are shown in the table below.
|Feature||Type 1 Diabetes||Type 2 Diabetes|
|Age||Any age (young more common)||adults|
|Body disposition||Thin or normal||obese|
|Prevalence||Less||More - 90% adults|
|Insulin||Loss of insulin producing cells – insulin deficiency||Ineffective insulin – insulin resistance|
Table 1: key differences between diabetes type 1 and type 2
Treatment for type 2 diabetes is aimed at managing patient’s blood glucose levels to control symptoms and reducing the risk of complications. Much of the management of diabetes involves advice on lifestyle modification including taking regular exercise, losing weight if necessary and eating healthily. Sometimes this can be enough to reduce blood sugars to a healthy level.
However, sometimes these life style changes are not enough to reduce glucose levels, and as type 2 diabetes is progressive, medicines are also required. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which aids blood cells in taking up glucose to be used as energy. Therefore when insulin is resistant, it cannot sense glucose and energy cannot be released (2).
Currently, Exenatide (marketed as Byetta) is the choice of drug is used to treat type 2 diabetes. Upon injection, exenatide increases the secretion of insulin from the pancreas, which slows the absorption of glucose, which lowers glucose sugar levels. Interestingly, exenatide is a manmade version of a hormone found in the saliva of the Gila monster which are found in Mexico, which is more effective and slows the emptying of the stomach.
However, on 18th October, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the instituton which provides guidance on medication choices for diseases, recommended an exenatide based prolonged release suspension injection for type 2 diabetes. This new injection named Bydureon is manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. So far however, it’s recommendation has not been finalised, this is due in February 2012. Until then the weekly injection will only be available in surgeries in which local NHS bodies have agreed to distribute Bydureon (3).
Let’s hope that NICE approve Bydureon as soon as possible so that diabetes sufferers all over the world can manage this ruthless disease in a slightly easier way. Watch this space for updates on this story.