People taking the pill experienced some successful weight loss
British researchers have shown a simple pill has the power to lower blood sugar and promote weight loss in just three months.
The development is significant as the once a day tablet could potentially end the need for painful daily insulin injections.
And it comes as figures show the diabetes epidemic gripping the UK costs the NHS more than £10 billion a year with a new diagnosis made every two minutes.
Trials showed up to 90 per cent of patients receiving semaglutide lowered their blood glucose levels and experienced “meaningful” weight loss.
Study leader Melanie Davies, Professor of Diabetes Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: “These results demonstrating semaglutide’s ability to have a significant impact on lowering blood glucose and support weight loss when taken orally therefore are hugely promising.
Diabetes treatment has so far been invasive, the new method may simplify it
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition with potentially devastating complications
“Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition with potentially devastating complications which is posing a major challenge to health services across the world because of the increasing numbers of people developing it.”
Although there are several treatments for Type 2 currently available many come with an increased risk of developing low blood sugar, a condition known as hypoglycaemia, and weight gain.
The pill could be available in as little as two years.
Type 2 diabetics either do not produce enough insulin, which controls blood sugar levels, or the insulin they produce does not work properly. The condition is largely lifestyle driven with nine in 10 sufferers overweight or obese.
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Meanwhile, about 12 million people in the UK are at increased risk of developing the disease but are unaware.
Eating well and maintaining a healthy weight are known to reduce a person’s risk with some able to manage their blood glucose simply by improving their diet.
But the crisis is so acute health chiefs now recommend everyone over 40 should be checked to see if they are at risk, with two million people already offered places on a diet and exercise programme.
Semaglutide is one of a number of relatively new injectable drugs, but it can also be taken as a pill. It works by stimulating insulin production and suppressing the secretion of the glucose-raising hormone glucagon, as well as lowering appetite.
Some diabetes sufferers can control their glucose levels by altering their diet
Trials at the Leicester Diabetes Centre, Europe’s largest diabetes research facility, involved 632 people with Type 2 randomly selected to take either semaglutide orally or as an injectable or a placebo across 26 weeks.
Research published in the respected journal JAMA showed nine in 10 of those taking 40mg of the drug daily achieved a target HbA1c level – the standard measurement of blood glucose – of less than seven per cent.
Meanwhile “clinically relevant” weight loss of five per cent [of total body weight] or more was achieved in up to 71 per cent of patients.
The drug is being made by Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk, which earlier this year announced it was investing £115 million in a new diabetes research centre at Oxford University, employing up to 100 researchers.
Britain’s diabetes epidemic is so severe the NHS is set to offer a reversible, non-surgical weight loss device using a 2ft-long tube which stops food coming into contact with the small intestine.
Obesity is the single biggest aggravating factor for those with the condition. A decade ago no child in Britain had Type 2 but there are now more than 500 with the disease.
The number of adults with the disease has risen by 1.5 million in the past 10 years with GPs in England now reporting 3.6 million patients aged 17 and older on their records.
Speaking about the burden of the condition consultant vascular surgeon Martin Claridge <> said: “I am worried. All aspects of health care affected by Type 2 are straining at the seams trying to manage this increasing number of patients with complications.”
The drug trial breakthrough comes as a diabetes helpline is receiving more than 50 calls a day from worried Britons for advice about the link between diet and the condition.
Colette Marshall, of Diabetes UK, said: “Our counsellors were contacted more than 20,000 times last year by people looking for information and guidance.
“We’re seeing the number of calls about diet and lifestyle steadily increase, which highlights what a wide and growing issue this is.
“Questions can range from very broad issues about healthy eating in general to very specific questions about particular types of food and how they might affect someone’s diabetes.
“It’s far from a straightforward issue and can be very confusing, particularly for people who are newly diagnosed.”