The presence of GLP-1 receptors in blood vessels and myocardium has led to the hypothesis that GLP-1 receptor agonists can improve cardiovascular disease outcomes.24 In the pivotal Liraglutide Effect and Action in Diabetes: Evaluation of Cardiovascular Outcome Results (LEADER) trial, 9,340 patients with type 2 DM and increased cardiovascular disease risk were randomized to liraglutide vs placebo.25 The hazard ratio (HR) for time to the primary end point of cardiovascular death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, or nonfatal stroke was 0.87 (P = .01 for superiority, P < .001 for noninferiority) for liraglutide compared with placebo after 3.8 years. The incidence of death from any cause or cardiovascular cause was also lower with liraglutide.25
Tolerable transient nausea and vomiting are reported adverse effects; these symptoms occur early in therapy, usually resolve in 4 to 8 weeks, and appear to be associated with greater weight loss.26 Although no causal relationship between GLP-1 receptor agonist use and pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer has been established to date, several cases of acute pancreatitis have been reported.25 Alternative therapies should be considered in patients with a history of or risk factors for pancreatitis.
Combined with insulin
A product that combines insulin glargine and lixisenatide (Soliqua) is FDA-approved for patients with type 2 DM. In a 30-week randomized controlled trial of the combination product vs insulin glargine alone in patients with type 2 DM not controlled on basal insulin with or without up to 2 oral agents, the combination product resulted in an HbA1c reduction from baseline of 1.1% vs 0.6% for insulin glargine alone (P < .001).27 Mean body weight decreased by 0.7 kg with the combination product and increased by 0.7 kg with insulin glargine (P < .001).27 In a 24-week study of a lixisenatide-insulin glargine combination vs insulin glargine in insulin-naïve patients taking metformin, there was a reduction in HbA1c of about −1.7% from baseline in both groups, while the combination group had a 1-kg weight reduction compared with a 0.5-kg weight increase in the insulin glargine group (P < .001).28
Mechanism of action
In a healthy normoglycemic person, about 180 g of glucose per day is filtered into the glomerular filtrate and reabsorbed into the circulation.29 SGLT-2 facilitates the reabsorption of glucose in the proximal convoluted tubule of the kidneys. Approximately 90% of glucose reabsorption is mediated by SGLT-2 found in the S1 and S2 segments of the proximal convoluted tubule, and the remaining 10% by SGLT-1 in the S3 segment. At serum glucose levels above 180 g, the reabsorptive capacity of the nephron is overwhelmed, resulting in glycosuria.30 SGLT-2 expression is also increased in patients with diabetes, thus leading to increased glucose reabsorption into the circulation, further contributing to hyperglycemia.30 Inhibition of SGLT-2 alleviates hyperglycemia by decreasing glucose reabsorption (30% to 50% of filtered glucose) in the kidneys and by increasing excretion (50 mg to 80 mg of glucose) in the urine.31 SGLT-2 inhibitors currently FDA-approved are canagliflozin (Invokana), dapagliflozin (Farxiga), and empagliflozin (Jardiance).
SGLT-2 inhibitors have relatively weak glycemic efficacy. A meta-analysis of SGLT-2 inhibitors vs other antidiabetic medications or placebo found that SGLT-2 inhibitors appeared to have a “favorable effect” on HbA1c, with a mean difference vs placebo of −0.66% (95% CI −0.73% to −0.58%) and a mean difference vs other antihyperglycemic medications of −0.06% (95% CI 0.18% to 0.05%).32
The same meta-analysis found that SGLT-2 inhibitors reduced body weight (mean difference −1.8 kg, 95% CI −3.50 kg to −0.11 kg).32 And in a randomized controlled trial, monotherapy with canagliflozin 100 mg/day and 300 mg/day resulted in body weight reduction of 2.2% (1.9 kg) and 3.3% (−2.9 kg), respectively, after 26 weeks.33 A Japanese study showed a dose-related total body weight loss with empagliflozin vs placebo ranging from 2.5 ± 0.2 kg (5-mg dose) to 3.1 ± 0.2 kg (50-mg dose) after 12 weeks.34 Bolinder et al35 reported that adding dapagliflozin 10 mg to metformin in patients with type 2 DM reduced total body weight by −2.96 kg (95% CI −3.51 to −2.41, P < .001) at week 24. Whole-body dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and magnetic resonance imaging findings in this study revealed a decrease in fat mass and visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue after treatment with dapagliflozin, thus suggesting urinary loss of glucose (and hence caloric loss) contributing to weight reduction in addition to initial weight loss from fluid loss due to osmotic diuresis.35 A continuous decline in total body weight was observed in a 78-week extension study resulting in −4.54 kg (95% CI −5.43 to −3.66 kg) at week 102, along with further reduction in total body fat mass as measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.36
The landmark study Empagliflozin, Cardiovascular Outcomes and Mortality in Type 2 Diabetes (EMPA-REG) involving 7,020 patients was the first large cardiovascular outcomes trial in patients with type 2 DM and overt cardiovascular disease. A relative risk reduction of 14% (12.1% to 10.5%, HR 0.86, 95% CI 0.74 to 0.99) in major adverse cardiovascular events (cardiovascular death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, and nonfatal stroke) was observed with empagliflozin.37 Rates of all-cause mortality and hospitalization for heart failure relative risk reductions were 32% (8.3% to 5.7%; HR 0.68 [0.57, 0.8]) and 35% (4.1% to 2.7%; HR 0.65 [0.50, 0.85]), respectively, with empagliflozin. The mechanism behind this cardiovascular benefit is unknown but is currently being explored.37
Increased risk of urinary tract and genital infections are known adverse effects of SGLT-2s. Other effects noted include postural hypotension from volume depletion and a transient increase in serum creatinine and decrease in glomerular filtration.29
NEUROENDOCRINE PEPTIDE HORMONE: AMYLIN ANALOGUES
Mechanism of action
Amylin is a 37-amino-acid neuroendocrine peptide hormone secreted primarily by pancreatic beta cells. It promotes early satiety, and its anorexigenic effects are mediated by its action on the neurons of the area postrema in the brain.38 After a meal, amylin decreases gastric acid secretion and slows gastric emptying. It is co-secreted with insulin in a 1:20 amylin-to-insulin ratio and inhibits glucagon secretion via a centrally mediated mechanism.39
Pramlintide (Symlin) is an amylin analogue administered subcutaneously immediately before major meals. It decreases postprandial glucose levels and has been approved by the FDA as an adjunct to prandial insulin in patients with type 1 and type 2 DM.40
Amylin secretion is impaired in type 1 and type 2 DM, and small but significant reductions in HbA1c have been observed with addition of pramlintide to usual insulin regimens. In patients with type 1 DM, HbA1c levels were reduced by 0.4% to 0.6% after 26 weeks on 30 μg 3 times daily to 60 μg 4 times daily of pramlintide added to insulin.41,42 And pramlintide 120 μg added to usual antihyperglycemic therapy in patients with type 2 DM has been reported to decrease HbA1c by 0.7% at week 16 or 26.43,44
A meta-analysis of 8 randomized controlled trials assessed the effects of pramlintide on glycemic control and weight in patients with type 2 DM treated with insulin and in obese patients without diabetes.45 In these trials, patients took at least 120 μg of pramlintide before 2 to 3 meals for at least 12 weeks; a total of 1,616 participants were included. In the type 2 DM group, pramlintide reduced body weight by 2.57 kg (95% CI −3.44 to −1.70 kg, P < .001) vs control, over 16 to 52 weeks.45 The nondiabetic obese group had a weight loss of −2.27 kg (95%CI −2.88 to −1.66 kg, P < .001) vs control.45
Pramlintide and a pramlintide-phentermine combination are currently under investigation for treatment of obesity.23
Cardiovascular outcomes in patients treated with pramlintide have not been studied to date, but reductions have been observed in markers of cardiovascular risk including high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and triglycerides.46
Transient mild-to-moderate nausea is the most common adverse effect of pramlintide. Hypoglycemia has also been reported, more frequently in patients with type 1 DM, which is possibly associated with inadequate reduction in insulin.