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Type 2 Diabetes Medications Exenatide Weekly and Dapagliflozin Studied In Combination

>> Monday, September 26, 2016

In the wake of the recent annual European diabetes (EASD) meeting, another important study (and heavy science blog post!) coming your way today.

In the care of people with type 2 diabetes, we have fully 9 classes of glucose lowering medications to choose from in Canada.  While some of these medications can cause weight gain, others are weight neutral, and some can cause weight loss, in addition to improving blood sugar control.  Two classes of medications can cause weight loss, namely the GLP1 receptor agonists, and the SGLT2 inhibitors.  As 90% of people with type 2 diabetes also have overweight or obesity, it is of interest to know whether these two classes of medications can be used together, for even better blood sugar control and greater weight loss.

Two of these medications, the GLP1 receptor agonist exenatide qweekly (Bydureon) and the SGLT2 inhibitor dapagliflozin (Forxiga) have now been studied in combination.  Recently published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, the study randomized 695 patients with a baseline hemoglobin A1C of 8-12% to receive either exenatide qweekly, dapagliflozin, or the two medications in combination. 

After 28 weeks, hemoglobin A1C decreased by 1.6% in the exenatide group, by 1.4% in the dapagliflozin group, and by 2.0% in the combination group.   While the medications together were better than either drug alone, the benefit was not additive.  This does not surprise us, as we know that the higher starting A1C, the greater reduction we will see – so to be on two medications together would not expect to give an additive result compared to either medication alone.

The weight loss seen was additive, with a loss of -1.54kg in the exenatide group, -2.19kg in the dapagliflozin group, and -3.41kg in the combination group. Blood pressure reduction also exhibited an additive response, with a systolic BP reduction of -1.3mmHg on exenatide, -1.8mmHg reduction on dapagliflozin, and a full -4.2mmHg reduction on the combination.  These additive benefits make sense, given that each of these medications has a different mechanism of action on weight and blood pressure.

From a safety point of view, side effects that were seen were as expected from what we already know about each of these classes of medications, with no suggestion for any negative side effects of using the two medications in combination.

Finally, we have much awaited data that shows us that these two medications can be used safely in combination, with the result of better diabetes control, and an additive effect on both weight loss and blood pressure.

Disclaimer: I am involved in research trials of GLP-1 receptor agonists and SGLT2 inhibitors.  I receive honoraria as a continuing medical education speaker and consultant from the makers of exenatide and dapagliflozin (Astra Zeneca). 

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2016


Diabetes Medication Semaglutide Decreases Cardiovascular Events

>> Monday, September 19, 2016

Hot off the presses from the New England Journal of Medicine – an emerging type 2 diabetes medication called semaglutide has been shown to decrease cardiovascular events in a high risk population with type 2 diabetes.

The two year study, called the SUSTAIN-6 study and in which I was an investigator, enrolled 3,297 people from 20 countries around the world who had established cardiovascular disease, or at least one cardiovascular risk factor.   They were randomized to receive either semaglutide 0.5mg, semaglutide 1.0mg, or placebo as once weekly subcutaneous injections.

The primary outcome of the study, which was a composite outcome of first occurrence of nonfatal heart attack, nonfatal stroke, or cardiovascular death, was found to be reduced by 26% compared to placebo, with 6.6% of patients on semaglutide experiencing an event, vs 8.9% of patients on placebo.   When we look at these endpoints individually, there was a significant reduction of 39% of nonfatal stroke, whereas the differences in nonfatal heart attack and death were not significant.  

Although all patients in the study were treated to achieve target glycemic control, blood glucose control was better in the semaglutide groups, with hemoglobin A1C reduced by 0.7% and 1.0% in the semaglutide 0.5mg and 1.0mg groups respectively, compared to placebo, despite the fact that insulin needed to be started twice as often in the placebo group than in the semaglutide group.

In terms of other complications that we are aiming to prevent in people with diabetes, rates of new or worsening kidney disease was reduced with semaglutide.  The risk of retinopathic (eye) complications was higher, experienced by 3% of patients on semaglutide vs 1.8% of patients on placebo.  Rarely, achieving glycemic control rapidly (particularly when sugars start off very high) can paradoxically increase the risk of eye complications.  It is not clear if this was the reason in these patients; a direct effect of semaglutide cannot be ruled out.

So what does this mean for the care of people with type 2 diabetes?  The above results suggest that 45 people with type 2 diabetes and high cardiovascular risk would need to be treated for 2 years in order to prevent one cardiovascular event.  In the diabetes world, this is an impressive benefit, similar to the benefit of statins for cholesterol, and also in a similar realm to the two other diabetes medications, empagliflozin and liraglutide, that have been shown to prevent cardiovascular events (read more here and here).  The data showing cardiovascular benefit on all three of these medications has come out within the last year – before that, we did not have definitive evidence that any diabetes medication clearly reduces the risk of cardiovascular events.

It is indeed wonderful that we now know that some glucose lowering medications are able to prevent cardiovascular events in people with type 2 diabetes.  While semaglutide has not yet been approved for use, this study suggests that it will be a beneficial addition to our type 2 diabetes treatment armamentarium.

Disclaimer: I have been involved in research trials of semaglutide, other GLP-1 receptor agonists including liraglutide, and SGLT2 inhibitors like empagliflozin.  I receive honoraria as a continuing medical education speaker and consultant from the makers of semaglutide and liraglutide (Novo Nordisk) and empagliflozin (Boehringer-Ingelheim/Eli Lilly).  

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2016


Granola - One Of Today's Most Misunderstood Foods

>> Thursday, September 15, 2016

Quick:  Granola.  What's the first word or phrase that comes to your mind?


Diet food?

Low calorie?

If so - think again. While aggressive marketing campaigns have led many of us to think that granola is a healthy food choice - it's actually loaded with sugar and calories, and often high in fat as well.  And if you did think that granola is healthy, you're not alone - a recent survey found that 80% of Americans said the same.

Granola is essentially a conglomerate of rolled oats, nuts, seeds, sometimes puffed rice, sometimes dried fruit or chocolate bits, stuck together with honey or brown sugar, and baked until golden brown.  A typical serving of granola (commercial or home made) at breakfast is about a cup - which can range from 400-600 calories.   (for comparison, a Big Mac has 563 calories)

Granola bars are no better.  While some are reasonably low calorie by way of portion control (say, around 100 cal), most are in the 150-200 calorie range for only 25-30g of food, and often not much different in composition or calories than a cookie of the same weight.

There is nutritional value in some of the components of granola (eg the nuts, whole grains), so if you're a granola lover and struggling with weight, consider having it as a dessert or snack instead - pair 1/4 cup with 1/4 cup of non fat plain greek yogurt for a delicious treat!

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2016


Barriers to Exercise - Low Sugars in Diabetes

>> Thursday, September 8, 2016

A healthy lifestyle includes exercise, and is part of standard recommendations to most people for maintenance of health and well being.  People with diabetes who take medications that can cause low blood sugar usually have to alter medications and/or food intake to avoid having a low blood sugar induced by the exercise.  A low blood sugar can be a very frightening experience -  sadly, as a recent study shows, the fear of having low blood sugars may actually prevent people with type 1 diabetes from engaging in exercise.

The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, surveyed over 500 adults with type 1 diabetes, asking about how they manage their diabetes in the context of exercise.

The majority of these people said that they increased carbohydrate intake before (79%) and after (66%) exercise, and about half of them decreased their meal time insulin before and/or after exercise.  Despite making these adjustments, however, 70% of people reported that they still experience low blood sugars after exercise.  Fear of low blood sugars was identified as a barrier to exercise.

While people with type 2 diabetes were not surveyed in this study, I can attest to the fact that people with type 2 diabetes who are taking medications that can cause low blood sugars (insulin, sulfonylureas, and meglitinides) share these concerns and struggles in preventing low sugars with exercise.

Newer insulins are becoming available to decrease the risk of low blood sugars, and much work is being done to advance the technology in glucose sensing and insulin pump devices as well. For people with type 2 diabetes, medications that do not cause low blood sugar may be an option.  But for those who do take insulin or medications that can cause low sugars, the most important part of avoiding lows around exercise as much as possible is working closely with your diabetes educator to find strategies that work for you.  Each person will be different in terms of what medication they are taking; what kind of exercise is being done and for how long; eating patterns; and how your body responds to that particular exercise.  If you have diabetes and are struggling with preventing lows around exercise, be sure to see your diabetes educator to explore strategies that will work better for you.

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2016



I am excited that you have arrived at my site, and I hope you are too - consider this the first step towards a Healthier New You!! As a medical doctor, Endocrinologist, and obesity specialist, I am absolutely passionate about helping people with weight management. Though there is certainly no magic cure for obesity, there IS a successful treatment plan out there for you - it is all about understanding the elements that contribute to your personal weight struggle, and then finding the treatment plan that suits your needs and your lifestyle. The way to finding your personal solution is to learn as much as you can about obesity: how our toxic environment has shaped us into an overweight society; the diversity of contributors to obesity; and what the treatment options out there are really all about. Knowledge Is Power!!

Are you ready to change your life? Let's begin our journey together, towards a healthier, happier you!!

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