Januvia, a once-daily pill that lowers blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, has been launched in its first European markets, the UK and Germany.

Merck Sharpe & Dohme’s DPP-4 blocker is the first in a new class of type 2 diabetes therapies that enhances the body's own ability to keep blood sugar levels balanced. It is indicated in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus to improve glycaemic control as an add-on to metformin or a thiazolidinedione (glitazone) when diet and exercise or therapy alone do not provide adequate glycaemic control.

This new approach to the treatment of type 2 diabetes works by enhancing pancreatic islet cell function, a fundamental defect in type 2 diabetes, to promote insulin secretion by the pancreas and inhibit glucagon production, the latter resulting in reduced glucose production by the liver.

In clinical studies, the most common side effects of Januvia (sitagliptin) were upper respiratory tract infection, sore throat and diarrhea, and it showed a low incidence of hypoglycaemia and weight gain, troublesome side effects of various other oral diabetes medications.

Around two-thirds of adults with type 2 diabetes fail to reach recommended levels of glycaemic control despite pharmacological interventions. The UK’s National Health Service spends around £150,000 every hour on diabetes control, with the majority of this money spent on treating complications.