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May 22, 2019

New Drug Proven Safe and Effective in Children with Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes drug liraglutide is effective but carries some risk of side effects, shows clinical trial.

There’s a new drug on the horizon for children with diabetes, based on results of a long-awaited clinical trial. Liraglutide, an injectable drug, is currently approved for use in adults only but recently proved effective in controlling blood sugar in children with a few noted side effects.

Known as the Ellipse trial (Evaluation of Liraglutide in Pediatrics with Diabetes), this study tested the drug in children between the ages of 10 and 17. The goal was determining whether adding the injectable drug to current therapy helps achieve target blood sugar levels in children.

Liraglutide was approved in 2010 for the treatment of diabetes in adults. It helps promote blood sugar control and reduce cardiovascular risk in adults with type 2 diabetes. However, its effect in children with type 2 diabetes requires further investigation.

Based on results of the Ellipse trial, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, findings appear promising. The study included a total of 135 children with type 2 diabetes who were unable to achieve target blood sugar control with metformin.

Metformin is considered standard therapy for children with type 2 diabetes but doesn’t always work at regulating blood sugar, especially as children age.

The study was conducted at 84 sites in 25 countries. Participants were 15 years old, on average, and all were overweight or obese based on their height and weight.

During the one-year study, participants were randomly chosen to receive liraglutide or an inactive placebo drug, in addition to metformin. Researchers closely tracked participants’ blood sugar levels as well as any adverse events that occurred throughout the trial.

After analysis, researchers found that participants taking liraglutide plus metformin had significantly lower blood sugar levels by the end of the study compared to those taking metformin only. They were also more likely to achieve target blood sugar control than those on standard therapy.

Overall, authors note that the number of patients experiencing adverse events were similar in both study groups. While no events were considered serious, liraglutide was associated with increased risk for adverse events—especially nausea.

Based on findings, authors conclude that liraglutide plus metformin helps improve blood sugar control in children with type 2 diabetes. However, the drug may have unwanted gastrointestinal effects, which is important to consider when weighing potential treatments.

While liraglutide has yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in children, experts are encouraged by findings. Rates of type 2 diabetes are at an all-time high and continue to increase among children, largely due to childhood obesity. Experts hope the addition of liraglutide to approved therapies could help children achieve better control of their blood sugar and diabetes.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce any insulin—a hormone that converts sugar into energy. This type of diabetes is often diagnosed in children and young adults and cannot be prevented. Type 2 diabetes, however, occurs when the body resists insulin or does not produce enough insulin, and can be prevented in some patients.
  • How can I prevent type 2 diabetes?

  • Although unknown exactly why some individuals develop type 2 diabetes and some don’t, there are some known risk factors for this condition, like being overweight and inactive. There are also risk factors that can’t be controlled, such as family history, age and race.

Infographic: Diabetes

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Infographic: Obesity