As rates of diabetes continue to rise, the hunt for new drugs to tackle the metabolic disease is imperative. In 2014 there were an estimated 422 million people with diabetes, compared to just 108 million in 1980.
Although there are a range of treatment options available for type 2 diabetes, many target the symptoms rather than the root cause and may have adverse side effects. A further difficulty is the close connection between diabetes and obesity, which is causing cases to increase.
Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide however permanently lowers blood glucose levels by increasing insulin production and could also treat obesity, a major underlying cause of diabetes. A recent study showed that the drug controls appetite and food cravings and could therefore generate significant weight loss.
First developed in 2012, an injectable version of semaglutide is already approved for use in the US. Now, an oral version of the drug has now passed its first Phase III clinical trial.
Semaglutide works by mimicking the action of a hormone (GLP-1) which increases insulin secretion. It can be taken orally once daily and in this 6-month trial was delivered in 3, 6 and 14 mg doses to over 700 people with type 2 diabetes.
The drug showed significant reductions in long-term blood glucose levels compared to placebo at all doses, while the highest dose also led to significant weight loss. People treated with 14mg semaglutide experienced a weight loss of over 4 kg on average.
The drug was also safe and well tolerated, causing only nausea, which reduced over time. Chief Science Officer of Novo Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen said he was encouraged by the results of the trial, adding “[The results] confirm the unprecedented oral efficacy of semaglutide that was reported in the phase 2 clinical trial in type 2 diabetes”.
There are nine additional trials running for semaglutide with over 9000 participants, results for which will be provided later this year. Novo Nordisk plan to apply for regulatory approval for the drug in 2019.