Study: Type 2 diabetes pill Jardiance cuts death risk

Linda A. Johnson
Associated Press

Trenton, N.J. — Jardiance sharply reduced chances of dying in diabetic patients at high risk of heart complications, a study shows, making the medication the first shown to lengthen diabetics’ lives.

The daily pill for Type 2 diabetes reduced deaths from heart complications by 38 percent, deaths from any cause by 32 percent and hospitalizations due to chronic heart failure by 35 percent, according to the study.

The results were particularly striking because about four-fifths of the participants were already taking standard medicines to control their blood sugar and blood pressure and to prevent heart attacks, in addition to either Jardiance or a dummy pill.

Jardiance makers Eli Lilly and Co. and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. funded the huge study, which included 7,020 patients in 42 countries, all followed for about three years, on average.

Heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular damage kill about half of Type 2 diabetes patients, as excess sugar in their blood steadily damages the heart and blood vessels, along with other organs.

Heart complications are the top cause of death in diabetics. For those who’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, the two diseases together shorten life expectancy by 12 years.

“This is the first time that any diabetes drug has been shown to reduce the chances of dying from heart disease,” said Dr. Silvio Inzucchi, director of the Yale Diabetes Center and a professor at Yale School of Medicine. He was part of the committee overseeing the study.

“Patients who took this drug had basically a 1-in-3 chance of avoiding death,” Inzucchi said, adding that due to the findings, “The highest-risk patients should speak to their doctors about their diabetes management.”

The study, whose results were released Thursday, found that Jardiance reduced by 14 percent the combined number of nonfatal heart attacks, nonfatal strokes and deaths due to heart complications in study participants. Those outcomes are typically analyzed as a group in studies involving heart disease risk and treatments.

“It’s a quite impressive study,” given the results and the number of patients and countries included, said Dr. Yogish Kudva, a diabetes specialist at the Mayo Clinic who was not involved in the research.

Kudva noted the findings left one riddle: While many deaths were prevented, the number of nonfatal heart attacks and strokes didn’t decrease significantly, meaning all the benefit of Jardiance came from preventing deaths and hospitalizations.

That still should make it appealing to patients and insurers alike, even with a wholesale price of $343 per month.

Inzucchi said the study researchers are still analyzing data from the just-completed study and may find an explanation for why the nonfatal heart attacks and strokes didn’t decrease. But he said additional research on Jardiance and other drugs in the class, called SGLT2 inhibitors, may be needed to understand all their effects in the body. The drugs work by increasing the amount of sugar from the blood that is excreted through urine.