More doctors are recommending the early treatment and management of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in order to avoid the risk of potentially life-threatening complications. This renewed emphasis on early intervention comes alongside a deeper understanding of the need for comprehensive solutions for T2DM patients, comprising lifestyle modifications as well as pharmacological treatment.
Doctors agree that the combination of lifestyle changes and drug therapy is key to preventing the development of further health risks, such as heart and renal disease.
“The risk of developing further complications such as kidney and cardiovascular disease increases when type 2 diabetes is not properly managed from the onset,” says Dr. Bobby Mirasol, Former President of Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (PSEDM) & ASEAN Federation of Endocrine Societies (AFES). “We’ve come to realize that the ill effects of diabetes on patients can be minimized with aggressive treatment early on. Because type 2 diabetes can lead to heart attack and strokes, timely, comprehensive, and consistent intervention is hugely important.”
Novel treatment available
For patients with type 2 diabetes, doctors have long recommended glycemic control through pharmacotherapy, alongside the adoption of specific lifestyle-related treatment goals, such as maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding fatty non-nutrient-dense food, and replacing refined carbohydrates with fiber-rich whole grains.
The oral medication, Dapagliflozin, by AstraZeneca, is a selective and reversible inhibitor of sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) that works independently of insulin to help flush out excess sugar out of the body through urine removing accompanying calories, thus reducing blood sugar levels while supporting the important goals of weight loss and blood pressure reduction.
The unique mode of action the drug offers is the first of its kind and not seen among current available treatments for type 2 diabetes in the Philippines. This is the first medicine in the new SGLT2 class to gain regulatory approval in the world, granted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Dapagliflozin has been subsequently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is also approved in 40 countries including Australia.
The novel drug is to be used as a supplement to diet and exercise to improve blood glucose control alone, or in combinations with other oral glucose-lowering medicinal products, such as metformin as well as insulin.
“The results we’ve seen so far with the early use of dapagliflozin among patients have been very promising,” says Dr. Rima Tan, President of Diabetes Philippines. “Our patients so far have exhibited healthier blood sugar levels. And because weight loss and healthy blood pressure are integral parts of any successful treatment regimen, having a drug that also supports these other objectives is a great advantage.”
Experts acknowledge that these additional benefits are especially important in populations prone to diabesity, the concurrence of obesity and diabetes, whichFilipinos are prone to.
20,000 lives changed and counting
Since its approval in 2014, dapagliflozin has been used to effectively treat more than 20,000 patients in the Philippines alone, with doctors citing it as an effective component of early type 2 diabetes treatment.
“It is the benefits being experienced by these patients that matters the most,” says Dr. Emmanuel Arca, Associate Medical and Regulatory Affairs Director of AstraZeneca Philippines. “We’ve been hearing a lot of good news about how dapagliflozin has contributed to the holistic treatment of type 2 diabetes by combining blood sugar lowering with the additional benefit of weight and blood pressure reduction.” Doctors credit the success of dapagliflozin to its unique mechanism of action, as it addresses both pharmacological and lifestyle-related components of treatment.
“Having such a drug available goes a long way towards preventing the various complications associated with the disease, especially since being overweight increases those risks,” says Dr. Arca. “While dapagliflozin is relatively new, initial results have renewed our hopes of helping type 2 diabetes patients’ live full and happy lives.”
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