• Drug reduces chances of developing diabetes by 80 per cent
  • Pre-diabetes also reversed in 60 per cent of those on trial

An injected drug that lowers blood sugar levels can reduce the chances of those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 80 per cent, according to new research led by a scientist at University College Dublin.

The drug, liraglutide, promotes weight loss by interacting with the areas of the brain that control appetite and energy intake.

The study involved a major international trial conducted over three years in which 2,254 adults with pre-diabetes participated at 191 research sites in 27 countries. The findings of the study were published in the medical journal, The Lancet.

The aim of the trial was to evaluate whether liraglutide can safely delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in participants with pre-diabetes.

The trial results show that continuous treatment with the drug over three years helped to prevent the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in participants by 80 per cent when combined with diet and exercise.

In 60 per cent of those patients, pre-diabetes was completely reversed and patients returned to healthy blood sugar levels.

Of those patients who went on to develop diabetes, those who had been taking the drug took three times longer to develop the disease than those in the placebo group.

Liraglutide also helped to sustain greater weight loss when compared to the placebo.

Pre-diabetes is a metabolic condition that is closely tied to obesity. If undiagnosed or untreated, it can develop into type 2 diabetes, which is treatable, but not reversible.

In Ireland, one in ten of the population have pre-diabetes, and pre-diabetes and obesity are risk factors for type 2 diabetes and its complications. Pre-diabetes progresses into type 2 diabetes in five to ten per cent of sufferers within ten years.

These individuals are at risk of a range of conditions that can affect their overall health, including type 2 diabetes and its complications, as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Professor Carel le Roux from the UCD Diabetes Complications Research Centre, UCD School of Medicine and Fellow, UCD Conway Institute is an obesity specialist and the corresponding author on the study.

“In this study, we wanted to see if this drug in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and lifestyle intervention could delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in a high-risk population with obesity and pre-diabetes,” he said.

“On the basis of our findings, liraglutide 3.0 mg can provide us with a new therapeutic approach for patients with obesity and pre-diabetes to substantially reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its related complications.”

The study is entitled: 3 years’ of liraglutide versus placebo for type 2 diabetes risk reduction and weight management in individuals with prediabetes: a randomised, double-blind trial

By: Jamie Deasy, digital journalist, UCD University Relations