Meglitinide analogues in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus

R Landgraf
Drugs & Aging 2000, 17 (5): 411-25
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a complex heterogenous metabolic disorder in which peripheral insulin resistance and impaired insulin release are the main pathogenetic factors. The rapid response of the pancreatic beta-cells to glucose is already markedly disturbed in the early stages of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The consequence is often postprandial hyperglycaemia, which seems to be extremely important in the development of secondary complications, especially macrovascular disease. Therefore one of the main aims of treatment is to minimise blood glucose oscillations and attain near-normal glycosylated haemoglobin levels. Meglitinide analogues belong to a new family of insulin secretagogues which stimulate insulin release by inhibiting ATP-sensitive potassium channels of the beta-cell membrane via binding to a receptor distinct from that of sulphonylureas (SUR1/KIR 6.2). The pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of repaglinide, the first drug of these new antihyperglycaemic agents on the market, and of nateglinide, which will be available soon, differ markedly from the currently used sulphonylureas [mainly glibenclamide (glyburide) and glimepiride]. Repaglinide and nateglinide are absorbed rapidly, stimulate insulin release within a few minutes, are rapidly metabolised in the liver and are mainly excreted in the bile. Therefore, following preprandial administration of these drugs, insulin is more readily available during and just after the meal. This leads to a significant reduction in postprandial hyperglycaemia without the danger of hypoglycaemia between meals. The short action of these compounds and biliary elimination makes repaglinide and nateglinide especially suitable for patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus who would like to have a more flexible lifestyle, need more flexibility because of unplanned eating behaviour (e.g. geriatric patients) or in whom one of the other first-line antidiabetic drugs, i.e. metformin, is strictly contraindicated (e.g. nephropathy with creatinine clearance < or = 50 ml/min). Meglitinide analogues act synergistically with metformin and thiazolidinediones (pioglitazone and rosiglitazone) and can be also combined with long-acting insulin (NPH insulin at bedtime). Therefore, these drugs enrich the palette of antidiabetic drugs and make the treatment more flexible and better tolerated, which both add to better metabolic control and support the empowerment and compliance of the patient. However, this will only be the case if the patient and the diabetes care team are trained for this new therapeutic schedule and the healthcare system is able to pay for these rather expensive drugs.

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