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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Lilly’s JAK inhibitor shows promise as the first oral treatment for type 1 diabetes

Health Industry Hub | February 14, 2024 |

Pharma News: Eli Lilly’s Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor, typically used for rheumatoid arthritis, can protect the body’s insulin production and impede the progression of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in newly diagnosed individuals, according to an Australian world-first clinical trial.

Led by Professors Tom Kay and Helen Thomas from the St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, the phase II randomised, placebo-controlled trial, showed that oral Olumiant (baricitinib) can safely and effectively preserve the body’s own insulin production and suppress the progression of type 1 diabetes in people who initiated treatment within 100 days of diagnosis.

Professor Kay expressed his excitement, stating, “It is tremendously exciting for us to be the first group anywhere in the world to test the efficacy of baricitinib as a potential type 1 diabetes treatment.”

He emphasised the ground-breaking nature of the research, highlighting the promising prospect of this being the first disease-modifying treatment for type 1 diabetes that can be conveniently delivered in tablet form.

He added “Up until now, people with type 1 diabetes have been reliant on insulin delivered via injection or infusion pump. Our trial showed that, if started early enough after diagnosis, and while the participants remained on the medication, their production of insulin was maintained. People with type 1 diabetes in the trial who were given the drug required significantly less insulin for treatment.” 

Managing type 1 diabetes poses a substantial burden on those diagnosed and their families, necessitating continuous glucose monitoring and round-the-clock insulin administration for survival.

Professor Thomas, the preclinical lead on the trial, expressed optimism, stating, “We are very optimistic that this treatment will become clinically available. This would be a huge step-change in how type 1 diabetes is managed and we believe it shows promise as a fundamental improvement in the ability to control type 1 diabetes.”

The significance of this breakthrough cannot be overstated, especially considering the long-standing challenges associated with insulin therapy, which has been a mainstay for over a century. While insulin has been a life-saving intervention, it comes with potential dangers when administered in excess or insufficient quantities, leading to long-term complications such as heart attacks, strokes, vision impairment, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

Funded by JDRF, the clinical trial involved collaboration with renowned institutions including The Royal Melbourne Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, The Royal Children’s Hospital, and The Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide.

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