People with diabetes have successfully been using the drug liraglutide (brand name Victoza) to control blood sugar levels since it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010. Recently, however, the FDA has granted liraglutide a new indication: it is now approved for reducing the risk of major cardiovascular events in adults who have both Type 2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease.
The FDA approval was based on the results of what is called the LEADER trial. (LEADER stands for Liraglutide Effect and Action in Diabetes: Evaluation of Cardiovascular Outcome Results). This trial compared the effect of liraglutide versus a placebo (inert) medication on over 9,300 diabetes patients from 32 countries for a period of nearly four years. The findings showed that liraglutide lowered the risk of non-fatal heart attack, non-fatal stroke, or cardiovascular death by 13 percent. They also showed that the medication significantly reduced the risk of cardiovascular death by 22 percent. This is important because cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes.
Liraglutide now becomes the second diabetes medication to be granted a cardiovascular indication. The first, in 2016, was empagliflozin (brand name Jardiance), but Victoza is currently the only Type 2 diabetes treatment indication to reduce the risk of three major adverse cardiovascular effects (heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death).
Victoza, which is manufactured by the Danish pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk, is delivered by injection. Patients take it once a day by using an injectable pen (doses are 0.6 milligrams, 1.2 milligrams, or 1.8 milligrams). According to Anne Phillips, MD, a senior vice president at Novo Nordisk, “Physicians have come to rely on Victoza as an effective therapy for lowering A1C, and with this new indication they now have the option to choose a diabetes medication that also reduces their patients’ cardiovascular risk. This is good news for patients and health-care providers that will also bring much needed attention to the relationship between Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
Want to learn more about diabetes and heart health? Read “Fight Off Heart Disease With These Heart-Healthy Foods” and take our heart disease quiz.