New drug may improve blood glucose control for individuals with type 1 diabetes on insulin

The development of insulin injections was thought to be one of the greatest medical advancements for individuals with type 1 diabetes.

Before these treatments became widely available, people who had the condition were not expected to live long after their diagnosis. This is because individuals with type 1 diabetes did not produce any insulin naturally, which rendered their body incapable of transporting sugar from the blood to other tissues where it is converted into energy.

However, a recent study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology indicated that a new drug called liraglutide - marketed as Victoza - may improve diabetes management for individuals with type 1 diabetes.

At the onset of the investigation, a total of 14 participants had hemoglobin A1c levels that were less than seven, which are considered well-controlled.

However, the researchers noted that even individuals who practice diligent diabetes management experience episodes of so-called "glycemic excursions," during which their blood glucose levels become too high or too low - either over 150 mg/dL or below 70 mg/dL.

"The addition of liraglutide to insulin therapy in these well-controlled type 1 diabetics resulted in a significant and rapid reduction in glycemic excursions and, as a consequence, a rapid reduction in the amount of insulin they needed to take," said lead researcher Paresh Dandona, MD.

The study's results showed that improvements in blood sugar control occurred within two days of starting liraglutide treatment but these benefits were reversed equally fast when subjects stopped taking the drug.

Although the scientists said they do not fully understand how liraglutide works to control blood glucose, they hypothesized that it may inhibit the sudden spike in production of the hormone glucagon that occurs after a person with type 1 diabetes consumes a meal. High levels of the hormone are what causes elevated blood sugar levels, they said.