In just 3 months, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval to four type 2 diabetes drugs, including Invokana, which is the first in its class. Yet while adding new items to the expanding type 2 diabetes drugs arsenal has its positive side, it’s not good enough, and here’s why.
Do we need four new type 2 diabetes drugs?
It’s no secret that type 2 diabetes is a growing epidemic, and that an increasing number and percentage of children and adolescents are developing this disease that was once largely seen only in adults. For young people in particular, onset of type 2 diabetes at an early age places them at greater risk for a lifetime of health complications and a shorter life span.
The four new type 2 diabetes drugs that won FDA approval since January 2013, including the latest, Johnson & Johnson’s Invokana (canaglifozin), provide current and future type 2 diabetics with more pharmaceutical treatment options. Let’s consider how much they are needed.
Regardless of which drug class the current litany of type 2 diabetes medications fall into—biguanides, sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones, meglitinides, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors (DPP4i), insulin, and now the newest class, sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors—all share one characteristic: they are designed to be used along with diet and exercise to manage the disease.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease of lifestyle: nearly every risk factor for type 2 diabetes involves choices people make and can change: being overweight, lack of exercise, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, impaired glucose tolerance.
Proper diet and nutrition along with regular physical activity and weight management can both prevent type 2 diabetes and even reverse it in some individuals. They certainly can allow people to manage it better and even allow them to significantly reduce the need for medications.
Thus, while increasing the number of type 2 diabetes drugs on the market gives people with diabetes more medication choices, it also provides them with more ways to avoid taking proactive, aggressive steps to prevent and manage the disease without the drugs. This is all good news and money for drug makers and the healthcare industry, but not so good for healthcare consumers.
A January 25, 2013 report from the FDA noted that there are 24 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, and the number keeps rising. Millions more have pre-diabetes.
We keep adding more and more drugs to the medication chest for type 2 diabetes, yet it is not enough. More needs to be done to convince and educate people to take actions that can eliminate or at least significantly reduce their need for such type 2 diabetes drugs.