UK patients with type II diabetes could get access from this week to a new option for blood glucose control following the launch of Invokana (canagliflozin) across the country.

The once daily pill, which is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson group Janssen, is the first in a new class of drugs (sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 [SGLT2] inhibitors) that work differently to most other diabetes medicines by blocking glucose reabsorption by the kidney which increases the amount of glucose leaving the body in urine and thus lowers blood glucose levels.

The drug was given marketing clearance in Europe in November last year on the back of extensive safety and efficacy data garnered from nine clinical trials involving 10,285 type II diabetes, which showed improvement in haemoglobin A1c levels and fasting plasma glucose levels.

An estimated 3.2 million people are currently living with diabetes in the UK - 90% of whom have type 2 diabetes - and treating the condition and its complications costs the NHS about £10 billion a year. Aside from benefit to health, improving blood glucose control could save the NHS millions of pounds a year, so the option of a new treatment will be welcomed by healthcare professionals and patient alike.

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Cost regulators are also backing Invokana's use on the NHS. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has just this morning published draft guidelines recommending the drug as an option when used as part of a dual therapy regimen with metformin (if patients are at significant risk of hypoglycaemia or cannot take a sulfonylurea) or a triple therapy regimen in combination with metformin and a sulfonylurea. 

Invokana, the annual cost of which is around £477.26 for the 100mg daily dosage and £608.83 for the 300mg daily dosage, is also recommended in combination with insulin with or without other anti-diabetic drugs.

Until final guidance is issued to the NHS, NHS bodies should make decisions locally on the funding of specific treatments.