September 9, 2008 / 8:51 AM / 11 years ago

Tests show 2-year benefits of Merck diabetes drug

LONDON (Reuters) - Merck & Co’s diabetes drug Januvia substantially improves blood sugar levels over two years of treatment when combined with the older drug metformin and is generally well tolerated, new data on Tuesday showed.

The mean reduction in HbA1c — a common measure of blood glucose — in a study involving Januvia 50 mg and metformin 1,000 mg twice-daily was 1.8 percent after the first year and 1.7 percent at two years, researchers told a medical meeting.

Merck’s Januvia, also known as sitagliptin, which is annualizing sales of $1.6 billion some two years after launch, is currently the only so-called DPP-4 drug on the market.

Other additional studies also demonstrated the safety and efficacy profile of the so-called DPP-4 drug, researchers said in presentations at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes annual conference in Rome.

“This is important for patients and physicians because type 2 diabetes is characterized by a progressive deterioration in beta cell function over time, resulting in the disease worsening,” said Bernard Charbonnel of the University Hospital in Nantes, France.

“This progression of disease leads to decreased effectiveness of all known treatments over time, with patients often requiring multiple therapies in order to achieve their glycaemic goals.”

Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors work to enhance the body’s ability to lower elevated levels of blood sugar.

Other new DPP-4 drugs in development include Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca’s Onglyza, or saxagliptin, and Takeda’s alogliptin.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Louise Ireland

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