Friday, January 13, 2012

Small European study finds possible benefit for rheumatoid arthritis drug in diabetes

A few years ago some researchers from Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark had an idea. They suspected that by encouraging the body to use less of the interleukin-1 protein, people with diabetes would improve. Interleukin-1 is a protein that works to increase pain, swelling and fever. They recruited 70 patients with type 2 diabetes to test their theory.

Thirty-six patients got a placebo and 34 got a rheumatoid arthritis drug anakinra that blocks interleukin-1's action. At the end of the study, they found that the patients who took anakinra:
  • Had significantly lower blood glucose measures than the group that got the placebo
  • Increased their own insulin production
  • Had less inflammation in their bodies.

Their results were impressive enough for the New England Journal of Medicine to publish.
Now that this study is complete, the next move probably belongs to Amgen, the company that markets anakinra as Kineret. Based on one study with 70 participants, doctors will not start prescribing this right away to patients. The study only lasted 13 weeks, so we don't know if its gets better or worse beyond that point.

Amgen made this drug hoping to sell it to a portion of the millions of people living with rheumatoid arthritis. To their surprise, they found that it may actually be a viable treatment for the millions of people living with diabetes. Diabetes affects roughly seven times the number of people with arthritis.

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