New drug 'may lower heart risk in diabetics'

Deaths from cardiovascular causes down by a third in patients on anti-diabetes pill: Study

Doctors here are upbeat about the results of a large study on a new drug that has been shown to significantly reduce cardiovascular deaths among diabetics.

Nearly seven in 10 diabetics die from cardiovascular causes, which include heart attacks and strokes.

In Singapore, one in eight people suffers from diabetes.

When the drug, Jardiance, was added to standard diabetes medicine, it was shown to reduce cardiovascular deaths by more than a third, based on the results of a study of over 7,000 diabetics conducted over more than three years.

One in five patients in the study was Asian.

Jardiance has been available here since April this year, and sells for $3.60 to $4.50 a pill, depending on the dosage. Patients need to take one tablet a day, on top of their normal medication.

Dr Nitish Mishra, an endocrinologist with Raffles Medical Group, called the drug "a game-changer" in the treatment of diabetes, adding: "I feel so positive and hopeful that these study results will make a real difference for my patients."

Dr Kevin Tan, vice-president of the Diabetic Society of Singapore, said diabetics face two to four times the cardiovascular risk that non-diabetics do.

He said no other diabetes medicine had shown such levels of cardiovascular benefits.

"This is the first time that a study has shown a benefit with using an anti-diabetes medication in reducing death from a cardiovascular cause, which is beyond blood-sugar lowering," he noted.

Both doctors were in Stockholm, where the study results were announced on Thursday at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes congress, a prestigious international meeting on the disease.

The New England Journal Of Medicine, one of the most cited medical journals in the world, released a n article analysing the study results, which concluded that the data supports long-term use of the drug as there is "strong evidence for a reduction in cardiovascular risk".

The results show a 38 per cent reduction in cardiovascular deaths, a 32 per cent reduction in deaths from any cause and a 35 per cent drop in hospitalisation from heart failure, in diabetes patients.

Dr Tan Yong Teck, who was also at the conference, said the drug appears to benefit all patients, regardless of their blood sugar control.

He added that if 39 patients were put on the drug for three years, one life would be saved.

However, Dr Lee Chung Horn, an endocrinologist in private practice, sounded a note of caution, saying that he would not give it to patients who already had kidney failure, as they should be treated with insulin.

But he noted that he would prescribe the drug to patients with type 2 diabetes.

Jardiance has been available here since April this year, and sells for $3.60 to $4.50 a pill, depending on the dosage. Patients need to take one tablet a day, on top of their normal medication.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2015, with the headline 'New drug 'may lower heart risk in diabetics''. Print Edition | Subscribe