The experimental drug teplizumab has been found to delay type 1 diabetes in people at high risk for developing the autoimmune disease, according to the results from a new study presented on June 9.
Developed by Provention Bio, Inc., with financing from the National Institutes of Health and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the drug was found to delay the onset of the disease by a year or more.
“We can finally say that there has been substantial progress in modulating the early course of type 1 diabetes,” Dr. Clifford Rosen of the Maine Medical Center Research and Dr. Julie Ingelfinger wrote in an editorial.
The study included 76 participants ranging in age from 8 to 49. They were selected because relatives of theirs had type 1 diabetes, putting them at a higher risk for the disease, which appears when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. All of the volunteers also had unhealthy blood sugar levels.
Forty-four participants were randomly assigned to take teplizumab for 14 days. Of those, 43 percent developed type 1 diabetes. The disease appeared in half of them within four years. Compared to the group that received the drug, of the 32 people who were given a placebo, 72 percent developed type 1 diabetes. Half of those patients developed type 1 within two years.
After the study ended, 57 percent of those who were given teplizumab were free of diabetes while that number was 28 percent in the placebo group.
Teplizumab is not yet available as more studies are required before regulatory agencies can grant approval.
Medical professionals have said the drug may not available for long term use. There is the possibility using the drug long term may have negative effects on a person’s immune system.
A second round of teplizumab therapy may delay the onset of type diabetes even further, however, more tests are needed.
Teplizumab works by altering the white blood cells from the immune system that attack the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells.
Type 1 diabetes develops when the immune system destroys beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Roughly 1.25 million Americans have the disease and require daily insulin injections to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Each year, nearly 18,000 new cases are diagnosed in people younger than 20, according to the American Diabetes Association.
There is no cure, and the more than 1 million Americans who have the disease depend on daily insulin injections to maintain normal blood sugar.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in San Francisco.