Diabetes Medicine Reduces Risk of Heart, Kidney Complications

The injectable diabetes medicine liraglutide (brand name Victoza) safely and effectively lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular death, kidney disease, and death from all causes in those with Type 2 diabetes, according to new research from the UNC Diabetes Care Center. An estimated 29 million people in the United States are living with Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a significant risk factor for developing both cardiovascular disease — the leading cause of death in people with diabetes — and kidney disease. To determine the effects of liraglutide (a member of the GLP-1 class of medicines, which work by stimulating the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas to release insulin in response to high blood sugar levels) on cardiovascular and kidney health, 9,340 adults with Type 2 diabetes at high risk of heart disease were randomly assigned to receive either liraglutide or placebo (inactive treatment). Participants taking placebo were also able to take additional medicines to control their blood sugar, and everyone in the study received medicines to address associated health problems such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.


At the end of the three-year “Liraglutide Effect and Action in Diabetes Evaluation of Cardiovascular Outcome Results (LEADER)” trial, the researchers found that liraglutide was linked with a 13% lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke, a 22% reduced chance of cardiovascular death, a 22% decreased risk of new signs of advanced kidney disease, and a 15% lower risk of death from all causes compared to placebo.

“I’ve been excited about liraglutide for a long time because I think it’s unique,” noted senior study author John B. Buse, MD, PhD. “This changes the whole conversation about treating diabetes. To date, people have taken diabetes drugs to lower blood sugar. Now we can say that they should take liraglutide to prevent or delay the worst things that occur commonly in diabetes — heart attacks, strokes, advanced kidney disease, and death.”

Previous research has suggested that the diabetes drug empagliflozin (Farxiga), an SGLT2 inhibitor that works by promoting loss of glucose in the urine, may lower heart attack risk. The next big question, according to Buse, is whether empagliflozin and liraglutide can be combined to help people with advanced Type 2 diabetes who are at significant risk of heart complications.

For more information, read the article “Diabetes Drug Lowers Risk of Cardiovascular Complications, Kidney Disease” or see the study’s abstract in The New England Journal of Medicine. And see “Taking Diabetes to Heart” to learn more about protecting your cardiovascular health and “Protecting Your Kidneys” for more on reducing your risk of kidney disease.

Are you a Native American living in the area of Corning, California? Then you may be interested in the upcoming “Taking Control of Your Diabetes” health fair at the Rolling Hills Casino Event Center. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.