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New Drug May Someday Battle Obesity and Diabetes

Mouse studies found it did double duty; human trials too short to see effect, researchers report


A six-week human trial involving 53 patients with type 2 diabetes found that the medication effectively controlled their blood sugar levels. However, the researchers did not note any change in weight during the relatively short study period.

The higher potency of the combined molecule suggests it could be administered at lower doses than other incretin-based medications, reducing side effects and making the drug easier to take.

"Currently approved drugs are quite effective," DiMarchi said, "but they are insufficient in normalizing glucose, and they certainly don't cause much loss of body weight."

The next step will be to hold human trials in which the new medication is administered alongside a current drug, to compare effectiveness, he said.

Roche, which makes the drug, funded the study. It will be up to five years before the drug might receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, DiMarchi said.

The FDA issued a safety alert in March regarding incretin diabetes drugs, citing unpublished findings that suggest an increased risk of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer by using the drugs. The American Diabetes Association has called for an independent review of these medications to evaluate these claims.

The initial findings regarding the combination medication are "promising, I think," said Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"The question now becomes the weight loss in human subjects, how much weight loss, because that's going to be preferable if there will be weight loss," Mezitis said. "The good thing is this agent is not only treating diabetes but also is treating obesity. People would be losing weight and also maintaining glucose control."

Noting that the human trial involved only a handful of people for a short period of time, Anderson said he looks forward to seeing further research on the combination therapy.

"While it's an interesting concept and something that could be very promising, we're a long way from knowing whether targeting both hormone receptors will be incrementally better or a lot better," he said. "There's obviously a lot they're going to have to do with this molecule from this point forward."

The study findings were published Oct. 30 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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