One of the biggest hits in type 2 diabetes treatment is glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 receptor agonists, which induce insulin production in beta-pancreatic cells while suppressing the secretion of glucagon. All big pharma have GLP-1 drugs on the market or their pipelines, including Sanofi, Eli Lilly, Roche, AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim. But Novo Nordisk is going a step further with the first oral version of a GLP-1 drug, which is now close to the market.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1980 through 2010, the number of American adults aged 18 and older with diagnosed diabetes more than tripled—soaring from 5.5 million to 20.7 million. Moreover, the diabetes epidemic shows no signs of slowing down, affecting 25.8 million people in 2011. Another 79 million adults have prediabetes, putting them at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes down the road, according to the CDC.
Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas. This release of insulin promotes the uptake of glucose into body cells. In patients with diabetes, the absence of insufficient production of or lack of response to insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, meaning that although it can be controlled, it lasts a lifetime.