Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk’s Levemir (insulin detemir) can be used to treat type 2 diabetes without causing the degree of weight gain that usually arises from current therapies, according to new clinical results presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Athens, Greece.

In addition, it was also found that the more overweight a patient is before receiving treatment, the less weight is gained if the group’s bio-engineered, novel, long-acting formulation is used instead of conventional insulin, providing a highly-significant benefit to the patient.

Results from a multinational, 24-week study revealed that Levemir is just as effective traditional insulin in controlling blood glucose, but with the added benefit of improved tolerability and less weight gain. The Levemir group exhibited a significantly lower incidence of hypoglycaemia episodes compared to the insulin arm, with an overall risk reduction of 47%, while patients treated with insulin gained an average 2.8kg in weight over 24 weeks, compared to an average of 1.2kg in those given Levemir.

Previous findings from a pivotal, large-scale trial of type 2 diabetes showed that patients embarking on insulin therapy experienced an average weight gain of just under 5kg over the first five years, which has significant implications for treatment compliance. Professor Kjeld Hermansen, from the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, explaine: "The prospect of gaining weight to this extent can often dissuade people with type 2 diabetes from accepting the need for insulin, or from adhering to a prescribed therapy." He went on to point out that, aside from the obvious cosmetic effect, other serious complications from the condition may result if blood glucose levels are inadequately controlled, highlighting the urgent need for a drug which can control the effects of the disease without causing substantial weight gain.

These latest findings should push the drug, which was first cleared for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in Europe in 2004 with a subsequent approval in the USA earlier this year, toward attaining its peak annual sales forecast of $1 billion.