Researchers “stunned” by test results. Could help 50 million Americans
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – What started out as a plan to develop a drug to lower blood sugar in diabetics, may ultimately wind up treating two of the most-wide spread and costliest conditions in the U.S.; type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Combined, those two diseases affect more than 50 million Americans¹ and cost a staggering $618 billion a year¹.
The prospect of treating both diseases with one drug is exhilarating.
“The results are pretty striking,” said Sanjay Rajagopalan, MD, PhD, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Medical Center. “There’s a huge need to develop new therapies for these conditions, and we may be on the verge of doing that with one drug.”
Known as alogliptin, the drug is already being tested in diabetics at more than a thousand sites worldwide. As expected, its showing some benefits in lowering blood sugar levels. What researchers didn’t expect is that impact it might have on symptoms of heart disease.
Laboratory tests at The Ohio State University Medical Center show that alogliptin not only lowers blood sugar, but lowers blood pressure as well². It also cut cholesterol levels in animal models by approximately 30 percent and reduced inflammation by a remarkable 50 percent. Perhaps most surprisingly, it even reduced plaque build-up in arteries².
“We were very surprised by the magnitude of these benefits,” said Dr. Rajagopalan. “There was a significant reduction in plaque, as well as improvements in vascular function.”
That could someday mean immeasurable relief to patients like Montoya Ortiz, who goes through an intricate routine every day just to try and manage heart disease and diabetes.
“It’s hard,” she said. “I struggle every day.” As soon as she gets out of bed, Montoya must test her blood sugar, analyze the results, then carefully measure out the amount of carbohydrates and sugars she needs for breakfast. Then, 10 to 15 minutes before eating, she gives herself an insulin shot, one of four each day, and carefully times taking pills to help manage her heart condition. She repeats the process before almost every meal, before injecting herself with a different type of insulin at bedtime. The next day she wakes up and starts the process all over again.
“I have to take so many different medications a day with so many different conditions,” she said. “Some have to be taken with food, some don’t. Then, you read the fine print and realize that some types of medications can’t be taken with others. It’s a struggle.”
Her conditions may require more intensive treatments, but Montoya certainly is not alone. Right now 1 in 10 people in the U.S. battles diabetes¹. By 2050, that number is expected to skyrocket, affecting 1 in 3 Americans, all of whom will face an increased risk of heart disease as well¹.
“This is a major epidemic in North America,” said Dr. Rajagopalan. “Of the millions of people who battle type 2 diabetes, about half will die from cardiovascular complications. It it urgent, therefore, that we strive for new therapies like these.”
Results from the laboratory tests at Ohio State were published in November in the journal Circulation².
¹Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (diabetes), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December 2011.
²Long-Term Dipeptidyl-Peptidase 4 Inhibition Reduces Atherosclerosis and Inflammation via Effects on Monocyte Recruitment and Chemotaxis, Circulation, Volume 124, Number 21, November 22, 2011. Online abstract: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/124/21/2338.abstract?sid=24fe29bc-e635-4429-9b2e-77f4cb924c0e