Review of insulin-dependent and insulin-independent agents for treating patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and potential role for sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitors

Jeffrey S Freeman
Postgraduate Medicine 2013, 125 (3): 214-26
Diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), continues to be a global health care problem. Although the beneficial effects of glycemic control are well established, in the United States, > 40% of adults with diabetes fail to achieve target glycated hemoglobin levels. Antidiabetic drug classes vary with respect to their mechanisms of action, glucose-lowering potential, and safety and tolerability profiles. Antidiabetic drug classes include some agents that depend on the presence or action of insulin for their therapeutic effect. As the disease state of T2DM progresses, patient pancreatic β-cell function declines, and therapies that stimulate insulin secretion or improve insulin sensitivity become less effective for this population. Therefore, the development of additional antidiabetic agents with novel mechanisms of action that can be used alone or in combination with currently approved medications may help patients achieve glycemic control. Agents that have comparable glucose-lowering capabilities but different mechanisms of action may fill treatment gaps or meet the needs of patient subpopulations. For example, inhibitors of sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) represent an emerging class of glucose-lowering agents. The SGLT2 inhibitors reduce glucose reabsorption by the kidney, leading to increased urinary glucose excretion and caloric loss. In clinical trials, these agents have been shown to improve glycemic control and to reduce body weight in patients with T2DM. Additionally, SGLT2 inhibitors pose a low risk for hypoglycemia and are generally well tolerated; however, their use has been associated with an increase in the frequency of genital infections and, in some studies, urinary tract infections. Sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitors may provide an alternative or an addition to existing therapies for the treatment of patients with T2DM.

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