Conference Coverage

Will tirzepatide slow kidney function decline in type 2 diabetes?



The “twincretin” tirzepatide might become part of the “arsenal” against diabetic kidney disease, new research suggests. Notably, the drug significantly reduced the likelihood of macroalbuminuria, in a prespecified subanalysis of the SURPASS-4 clinical trial.

“Once-per-week tirzepatide compared to [daily] insulin glargine treatment resulted in a meaningful improvement in estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) decline and reduced urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR) and the risk of end stage kidney disease (ESKD) – with low risk of clinically relevant hypoglycemia in participants with type 2 diabetes at high cardiovascular risk and varying degrees of chronic kidney disease (CKD),” lead investigator Hiddo J. L. Heerspink, PhD, PharmD, summarized in an email to this news organization.

Dr. Hiddo J.L. Heerspink, professor of clinical pharmacology, Groningen University, the Netherlands

Dr. Hiddo J.L. Heerspink

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just approved tirzepatide (Mounjaro, Eli Lilly) – a novel, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) combined with a glucagonlike peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist – to treat glycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes, based on five pivotal SURPASS trials.

Dr. Heerspink presented the new findings about tirzepatide’s impact on kidney function in an oral session at the annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association.

40% reduced risk of kidney function decline

The main results of SURPASS-4 were published in the Lancet in October 2021, and showed that tirzepatide appeared superior to insulin glargine in lowering hemoglobin A1c in patients with type 2 diabetes at high cardiovascular risk who were inadequately controlled on oral diabetes treatments.

Now, Dr. Heerspink has shown that patients who received tirzepatide as opposed to insulin glargine were significantly less likely to have kidney function decline that included new-onset macroalbuminuria (hazard ratio, 0.59; P < .05).

“These are very large benefits and clearly indicate the potential of tirzepatide to be a very strong kidney protective drug,” said Dr. Heerspink, from the department of clinical pharmacy and pharmacology, University Medical Center Groningen (the Netherlands).

“Based on results from the SURPASS-4 trial, tirzepatide has significant kidney-protective effects in adults with type 2 diabetes with high cardiovascular risk and largely normal kidney function,” Christine Limonte, MD, chair of the session in which the analysis was presented, agreed, in an email to this news organization.

The approximate 40% reduced risk of kidney function decline in this population “is important because it suggests that this novel agent may contribute to the growing arsenal for preventing and treating diabetic kidney disease,” added Dr. Limonte, a clinical research fellow in the division of nephrology, University of Washington, Seattle.

“Over the last several years,” she noted, “sodium glucose cotransporter-2 [SGLT2] inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists have been identified as having significant kidney-protective effects in type 2 diabetes, and as such are becoming first-line agents in the treatment of diabetic kidney disease.”

Additional studies are needed, she added, to assess the impacts of tirzepatide compared to these agents (particularly GLP-1 receptor agonists, which overlap in their mechanism of action).

“With the growing number of therapeutic options for diabetic kidney disease, future research should also focus on identifying combinations of agents which benefit individuals in a ‘targeted’ manner,” according to Dr. Limonte.

“Ensuring accessibility to kidney-protective agents by promoting access to health care and reducing drug costs is essential to improving outcomes in diabetic kidney disease,” she added.


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