The Latest Class for Diabetes

FDA approval is still pending for a new diabetes drug called Galvus that's supposed to help the body balance sugar and insulin production. If approved, it will be the second in a new class of drugs -- with the first being Januvia -- approved in the U.S. last October. In this week's 'Dealing with Diabetes' segment, we take a closer look at what sets the new class apart from the rest.

The drug Januvia prevents the breakdown of GLP-1, a hormone that raises insulin production. It also indirectly inhibits the increase of blood-sugar levels. The once-a-day tablet is the first in a new class of drugs -- called DPP-4 inhibitors. Las Vegas endocrinologist, Fred Toffel, says it's especially ideal for treating an early onset of diabetes.

Dr. Toffel says, "Where it's best useful is early in the disease, people who are close to goal, where you just want to get them a bit lower and get lower safely. That's really where I see this niche. And that's a big niche."

With DPP-4 inhibitors, if blood sugar levels are normal, it doesn't do anything at all -- thereby reducing the risk of hypoglycemia or low sugar. Dr. Toffel says it's a safe drug that can be used alone or in combination. But unlike its well-known injectable counterpart, Byetta, Januvia does not appear to promote weight loss.

Dr. Toffel says, "It's not going to help you loose weight, but it's not going to have you gain weight. Also, essentially, very little side-effects."

Newer drugs are often more expensive and this is the case with Januvia. So depending on your coverage, it may or may not be affordable.

Dr. Toffel says,"The most cost-effective medicine for people are medically poor or have type-2 diabetes is diet and exercise. You get that for nothing. And it's by far still the number one treatment for type-2 disease."

Januvia is made by Merck Pharmaceuticals. It's expected to be a major boost for the drug company, after having to scrap their popular osteoarthritis drug, Vioxx.

Email your comments to Reporter Paula Francis.


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