Pharma

ADA 2016 calls attention to incremental improvements in drugs, devices to manage diabetes

“I think we’re going to hear more about SGLT2 inhibitors because they’re easy for patients to use and for physicians to prescribe,” said conference attendee Athena Philis-Tsimikas corporate vice president of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute.

New Orleans skyline wikicommonsThe American Diabetes Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions met in New Orleans all weekend, offering more than 300 speakers and 3,000 abstracts. Though nothing revolutionary has come out of the conference, so far, many of the presentations have featured tangible, incremental improvements in drugs, devices and clinical practice.

One of the highlights has been new data from the EMPA-REG study, which investigated cardiovascular outcomes for type 2 diabetes patients taking empagliflozin, an SGLT2 inhibitor. The original study found significant improvements, and the new data showed the drug reduces cardiovascular risk regardless of age or baseline LDL cholesterol.

“I think we’re going to hear more about SGLT2 inhibitors because they’re easy for patients to use and for physicians to prescribe,” said conference attendee Athena Philis-Tsimikas corporate vice president of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute, who had no role in the study. “As a clinician, it’s exciting to hear about this and see how these new medications can benefit patients.”

Another study that’s generating buzz at the conference is LEADER, which investigated liraglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist. Novo Nordisk has been telegraphing improved cardiovascular outcomes, but the results will be announced later in the conference.

On the device front, the long-sought artificial pancreas – which marries a glucose monitor to an insulin pump – is still a couple of years off. However, there have been improvements in continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), such as Abbott’s Freestyle Libre, which offers a number of refinements over current CGMs.

“You don’t need to do a finger stick to calibrate it,” said Philis-Tsimikas, “and it can be worn for two weeks.”

In addition, an abstract at the conference indicated the Freestyle Libre reduces hypoglycemia in type I diabetes patients. The device has been approved in Europe, but is still going through the regulatory process in the U.S.

Philis-Tsimikas was particularly excited by diabetes self-management education (DSME) studies, which have shown these interventions can have a major impact on outcomes.

“One presentation showed DSME can be as effective as Metformin for patients with type 2 diabetes,” said Philis-Tsimikas. “Unfortunately, fewer than 6.8 percent of patients with private insurance and 5 percent of patients on Medicare take advantage of these services. I think there’s this vast opportunity with something as simple as education, which offers positive psychological support but is incredibly underutilized.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons