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New Diabetes Drug Byetta for the Heart

by  David Mendosa
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The new diabetes drug, Byetta, can help us control our blood glucose and lose weight. In animal experiments it stimulates the birth of new beta cells, make more beta cells develop, and increase the mass of beta cells.

But there’s more. Taking Byetta can reduce our risk of heart attacks and strokes, the most common and deadly complications of diabetes.

It does this indirectly by reducing high blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels. This was the main conclusion of a poster, Abstract 557-P, presented at the American Diabetes Association’s scientific sessions just concluded in Chicago.

The new study tracked 151 people on Byetta in combination with metformin and/or a sulfonylurea for a longer period than any other – three and one-half years. In that time their lipid and blood pressure levels all improved.

The biggest change was a 24 percent increase in HDL, the good cholesterol level. LDL levels averaged a 6 percent reduction, total cholesterol was down 5 percent, and triglycerides were down 12 percent. Diastolic blood pressure decreased 4 percent, while systolic blood pressure dropped 2 percent.

And maybe Byetta and other forthcoming drugs in this new class called GLP-1 mimetics directly help our hearts. I picked up on this for the first time at the interactive discussion I wrote about here a few days ago on the GLP-1 mimetics.

“Our hearts have GLP-1 receptors,” Dr. Jens Holst, professor at the University of Copenhagen, said. He backed up this statement, which was news to me, by citing half a dozen articles in professional journals.

Three of these studies showed that GLP-1 mimetics are good for the hearts of mice, Dahl salt-sensitive rats, Sprague-Dawley rats, and dogs. All of these studies were positive, but less interesting to me that the two human studies.

Heart attack patients on GLP-1 in one of these studies had improved left ventricular function. In the other human study GLP-1 improved endothelial dysfunction, which often leads to atherosclerosis. This study reported on 12 people with type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. “This beneficial vascular effect of GLP-1 adds yet another salutary property of the peptide useful in diabetes treatment,” the study concluded.

The evidence showing that Byetta helps people with diabetes in many ways is growing. The only major human studies that are lacking concern regeneration and development of beta cells. That’s because an autopsy is the only way the scientists have figured out how to prove it in humans. And nobody has volunteered for one.