A type 2 diabetes drug could reduce the risk of hospitalization or death if taken months before COVID-19 infection, a new study finds.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that type 2 diabetes patients who took glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists to treat their condition had better health outcomes when they contracted Covid.
GLP-1R agonists are a class of drugs with anti-inflammatory properties that are commonly used to treat the swelling of body tissues that some diabetics face.
Type 2 diabetes patients who had taken the drug were 33 percent less likely to be hospitalized and 42 percent less likely to die within 28 days of COVID-19 infection.
Diabetes patients are at increased risk for complications caused by Covid, making these findings promising news for diabetics in America.
The diabetes drug GLP-1R agonists (pictured) showed it could reduce the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 by 33% and the risk of death by 42% if used within six months of infection, a new study finds
Diabetics are at an increased risk of serious complications such as hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Pictured: A doctor treats a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Apple Valley, California
Researchers, who published their findings Sept. 27 in the Diabetes diary, collected data from 30,000 type 2 diabetes patients who contracted Covid between January and September 2020.
They compared the number of patients taking GLP-1R agonists with a control group of more than 23,000 participants.
Drugs such as dulaglutide, exentide, semaglutide, and liraglutide all fall into the class of GLP-1R drugs.
The drugs have anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent some of the worst effects of a COVID-19 infection.
Many diabetes medications can stop inflammation because diabetics often struggle with the swelling of body tissues.
Researchers also collected data on two other types of diabetes type 2 drugs with anti-inflammatory properties, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors and pioglitazone.
DPP-4 inhibitors showed a reduced risk of respiratory side effects from the virus, but little ability to prevent hospitalization or death.
Pioglitazone showed the ability to prevent hospitalizations, but little to prevent deaths in the most severe cases.
GLP-1R agonists, which also demonstrated the ability to prevent respiratory side effects by 38 percent, were the most effective and the only ones to lower the risk of death.
The researchers are optimistic about the findings, but want to see more data on the drug before they consider it a true Covid treatment.
“Further research is needed to confirm whether GLP-1R agonists can protect against severe COVID-19 complications,” said Dr. Nazia Raja-Khan, study co-author and associate professor of medicine at Penn State, said in a statement.
“There is also a need to determine under what circumstances these drugs may be protective and how to use them safely during COVID-19 hospitalization.”
The team is calling for randomized clinical trials to be conducted to test the drugs’ ability to prevent the most severe cases of COVID-19.
“Our results are promising as treatment with a GLP-1R agonist appears to be highly protective, but more research is needed to establish a causal relationship between the use of these drugs and a reduced risk of severe COVID-19.” 19 outcomes in patients with type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Patricia Grigson, professor and chair of Penn State’s Division of Neural and Behavioral Sciences.
Researchers still recommend the COVID-19 vaccine because it is the most effective way to prevent infection, serious complications or death from the virus.
“Vaccination remains the best protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19,” said Dr. Raja-Khan in an email to DailyMail.com.
However, diabetics may be more at risk than others if they have a breakthrough infection, and those taking GLP-1R agonists may have a greater chance of survival.
“Vaccines have been shown to reduce hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” said Dr. Jennifer Nyland, assistant professor of neural and behavioral sciences and co-author of the study.
“But the scientific community continues to look for treatments that can complement vaccination by further reducing the risk of hospitalization, respiratory complications and death from COVID-19 in at-risk patients with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes.”
While the drug’s anti-inflammatory properties may be effective in preventing serious complications from Covid, researchers recommend that non-diabetic people use it.
“We absolutely do not recommend that people take drugs that have not been thoroughly tested and are considered safe and effective to treat symptoms of COVID,” Nyland told DailyMail.com in an email.
“We don’t know what this drug does in people who don’t have type 2 diabetes.”
If successful, the diabetes drugs could join molnupiravir, a recently developed drug by Merck that is currently seeking approval for emergency use, as a drug that can be taken before infection to prevent some of the virus’ worst effects.