A type 2 diabetes drug for adults also controls blood sugar levels in children and teens with the disease, researchers report.
Type 2 diabetes is on the rise among children and teens, but they have fewer treatment choices than adults, the study authors said. Currently, the only drugs approved for treatment of children and teens with type 2 diabetes are metformin and insulin.
This study, led by researchers at Yale University, looked at how the drug liraglutide (Victoza) affected blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin (or A1c) levels in patients aged 10 to 16 with type 2 diabetes who were already taking metformin with or without insulin.
Half of the patients took metformin plus liraglutide, and the other half took metformin plus an inactive placebo. The participants' blood sugar and A1c levels were checked after six months and one year.
For those with type 2 diabetes, an A1c level below 7% means their diabetes is relatively well-controlled, the study authors noted.
After six months, those in the liraglutide group had substantially lower blood sugar levels and their A1c levels were 1.1 percentage points lower than those in the placebo group, the findings showed.
After one year, the liraglutide group had A1c levels 1.3 percentage points lower than the placebo group, which had an average 0.5 percentage point increase.
The investigators also found that, after one year, nearly two-thirds of the liraglutide group had A1c levels under the 7% target, compared to one-third of the placebo group.
The study, published online April 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine, was funded by the drug's maker, Novo Nordisk.
The findings could be "transformational" for children and teens with type 2 diabetes, according to study first author Dr. William Tamborlane, a pediatric endocrinologist at Yale.
Metformin is the most popular initial treatment for type 2 diabetes in children and teens, but it often leads to an early loss of blood sugar control, and add-on treatment with insulin usually fails to lower blood sugar levels, the researchers explained in a university news release.
"As a result of this study, we anticipate that youth with type 2 diabetes will soon have a third option that has not previously been available," Tamborlane said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains how to prevent type 2 diabetes in children.