Clarity on treating comorbidities
Previously discussed in June at the ADA’s annual meeting, the consensus report has undergone fine-tuning and multiple revisions. The report was based on a comprehensive and systematic review of the diabetes literature available from 2014 through February 2018. Overall, more than 6,000 randomized trials, reviews, and meta-analyses were considered and distilled down to a list of around 500 papers that were then thoroughly reviewed by an expert panel.
“I guarantee, there’s never been a paper that’s been more peer reviewed,” said, the other cochair of the report’s writing committee. A total of 35 named individuals reviewed and provided more than 800 detailed comments among them, which were considered and reflected in the final version.
Dr. Buse is the Verne S. Caviness Distinguished Professor, chief of the division of endocrinology, and director of the diabetes center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“There’s much more clarity now,” added Dr. Davies, referring to the changes made to how patients with comorbidities are managed. If somebody does have atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease or chronic kidney disease, there is now clear direction on which glucose-lowering therapy should be considered first, and what to do if the HbA1c remains above target.
For example, in patients who have established atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, the recommendation is, after metformin, to choose either a glucagonlike peptide–1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist or a sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor with proven cardiovascular benefit.
If heart failure or chronic kidney disease coexist, then an SGLT2 inhibitor shown to reduce their progression should be favored, or if contraindicated or not preferred, a GLP-1 receptor agonist with proven cardiovascular benefit should be given.
The main action, pros and cons of interventions, and the various medications are shown in tables to clearly guide clinicians in the decision-making process, Dr. Buse said.
The first line recommended glucose-lowering therapy for hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes remains metformin, together with comprehensive lifestyle advice, Dr. Buse observed.
“A huge controversy in the [diabetes] community asks, ‘Is metformin the first-line therapy because it’s cheap and was the first oral agent studied and has a long history?’ or is it something that really is based on medical evidence?” Dr. Buse acknowledged. Although combinations of glucose-lowering drugs have been proposed upfront, “the evidence for that is largely from small studies, in limited numbers of sites, such that, for now, we generally recommend starting on a single-agent medication if lifestyle management is not enough to control glucose.”
If there is a need to intensify treatment as the patient’s HbA1c remains above their individualized target, then other drugs may be added to step up the treatment. The consensus report then looks at which drugs might be best to add, based on the need to avoid hypoglycemia, promote weight loss, and/or if cost or availability is a major issue.
If patients need the greater glucose-lowering effects of an injectable medication, a GLP-1 receptor agonist – not insulin – is recommended, Dr. Buse observed. However, for patients with extreme and symptomatic hyperglycemia, insulin is then recommended.
There also is guidance on when to consider oral therapies in conjunction with injectable therapies, with the consensus recommendation stating: Patients who are unable to maintain glycemic targets on basal insulin in combination with oral medication can have treatment intensified with GLP-1 receptor agonists, SGLT2 inhibitors, or prandial insulin.