Hot on the heels of winning European approval earlier this month AstraZeneca’s Onglyza has now been launched in the UK offering patients with type II diabetes another option for treatment.

The current surge of new cases of diabetes – with more than 145,000 new cases in the last 12 months in the UK alone – is placing a massive strain on health resources, a problem which is magnified by the fact that despite pharmacological intervention many patients are still failing to hit target levels of blood sugar, leaving them at greater risk of developing complications associated with the disease.

AstraZeneca’s new offering belongs to a relatively young class of diabetes therapies known as dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors, the arrival of which on the market sparked considerable excitement due to their apparent negligible effects on weight gain that many other treatments are linked with as well as no increased risk of hypoglycaemia, which can also significantly impact on a patient’s quality of life.

DDP-4 inhibitors work by boosting the function of pancreatic islet cells to encourage insulin secretion and inhibit glucagon production, resulting in reduced glucose production by the liver, and a large-scale clinical trial programme of the once daily pill Onglyza (saxagliptin) - involving more than 4,000 people - has clearly demonstrated its potential to improve glucose control.

On the back of these clinical trials European regulators cleared the use of Onglyza, which was developed in partnership with US group Bristol-Myers Squibb, to treat patients with type II diabetes in combination with diet and exercise and either metformin, a sulphonylurea or a thiazolidinedione when these drugs do not provide adequate glucose control alone.

According Anthony Barnett, Professor of Medicine, Consultant Physician and Clinical Director of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust: “The launch of saxagliptin as a new treatment option for Type 2 diabetes in the UK is good news for both patients and clinicians.”

He notes that introduction of the drug comes amid changes to UK guidelines for managing the disease, such as a reduction in the QOF (Quality and Outcomes Framework – an annual reward and incentive scheme for GPs) HbA1c targets from _7.5% to _7.0% for the majority of patients, and he stressed that “treatments such as saxagliptin, which provide additional glycaemic control with no increased risk of hypoglycaemia, have the potential to make a real difference in helping patients reach recommended glycaemic targets”.

Vimovo filing
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca also announced that it has submitted an application in Europe to market Vimovo - a combination of its antiulcerant Nexium and the anti-inflammatory naproxen - for treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis in patients at risk of developing ulcers from taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Vimovo is being co-developed with Pozen and was also filed across the Atlantic back in August, triggering a $10 million from AstraZeneca to the US group.