From the Journals

What are the most prescribed medications for type 2 diabetes?


Empagliflozin and dulaglutide became the most-prescribed drugs in their respective classes for treating type 2 diabetes in the United States from July 2013 to June 2018, new research shows.

The findings, from U.S.-based administrative claims data, were published online in Diabetes Care by Chintan V. Dave, PharmD, PhD, and colleagues.

Among patients initiating oral sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitors (SGLT2 inhibitors) over the 5-year period, empagliflozin (Jardiance, Boehringer Ingelheim/Lilly) became the most commonly prescribed glucose-lowering drug, primarily driven by an increasing proportion of patients with diabetes who had a diagnosis of myocardial infarction, stroke, or heart failure (collectively called cardiovascular disease-heart failure [CVD-HF]).

And within the subcutaneous injectable glucagonlike peptide–1 receptor (GLP-1) agonist class, initiations of dulaglutide (Trulicity, Lilly) surpassed liraglutide in 2013-2018, although patients starting liraglutide (Victoza, Novo Nordisk) were more likely to have a CVD-HF diagnosis.

“This study shows that by preferring empagliflozin, prescribers have largely reacted in accordance with the available evidence and drug labels, while other factors such as lower price, frequency of administration [dulaglutide is given weekly and liraglutide is given daily], or prior authorizations may have led prescribers to select dulaglutide over liraglutide,” Dr. Dave, of the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues wrote.

Internists and endocrinologists were the most frequent prescribers of both drug classes, but cardiologists rarely prescribed them, even for patients with established CVD-HF. “As patients with co-occurring diabetes and CVD are likely to see their cardiologist, these encounters may provide an additional opportunity to optimize their treatment,” the authors emphasized.

SGLT2 inhibitors and label changes

Over the study period, the proportion of patients who had CVD-HF and who received SGLT2 inhibitors rose by 3.4 percentage points, from 8.8% to 12.2% (P trend < .001).

The proportion of overall prescriptions for SGLT2 inhibitors written by endocrinologists dropped by 12.0%, although the absolute number of SGLT2-inhibitor prescriptions written by endocrinologists increased (P < .001).

The proportion written by internists did not change (P = .58), whereas it increased slightly among cardiologists but still barely exceeded 1% (P < .001). The findings were similar for the subgroup of patients with CVD-HF who initiated SGLT2 inhibitors.

By individual agents, canagliflozin (Invokana, Janssen) prescriptions dropped by 75.1 percentage points over the study period, from 100% in 2013 to just 24.9% by 2018 (P < .001), whereas empagliflozin initiation rose by 51.7 percentage points, from 13.9% to 65.6% of all SGLT2 inhibitor initiations (P < .001).

Among those initiating empagliflozin, the proportion with CVD-HF rose by 5.3 percentage points, from 8.8% to 14.1% (P < .001), mostly after the additional indication for reducing CV events and death was added to the U.S. label in December 2016.

In contrast, there were no significant changes in the proportions of those with CVD-HF who initiated canagliflozin (P = 065), dapagliflozin (P = .87), or other medications (P = .060).

“Changes in the drug label for canagliflozin (boxed warning for amputation) and empagliflozin (for reduction in CV events and death) in 2016 likely contributed to a rapid change in prescribing preference for empagliflozin,” Dr. Dave and colleagues wrote.

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