Patients with Type 2 diabetes have a high rate of cardiovascular and kidney disease. Two newer classes of medications used to treat Type 2 diabetes have been shown to protect patients against heart disease and chronic kidney disease, in addition to their ability to help manage blood glucose. The first class is a group of medications called sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors which are tablets that help lower the blood glucose level by reducing the amount of glucose that is being absorbed in the kidneys, so more glucose is lost from the body via the urine. These agents are unique compared to other diabetes medications as they do not interfere with the body’s insulin pathway. SGLT2 inhibitors have been shown to reduce cardiovascular events including heart attack, heart failure and stroke. They are known to protect the kidney, reduce blood pressure and help with weight loss.
The second class is a group of medications called GLP-1 agonists. GLP-1 agonists mimic the chemical structure of a naturally occurring hormone called Glucagon-like peptide-1. This hormone is produced by the small intestine in response to food intake and works in several ways to help you improve glucose control, lose body fat and to be healthy. They help the body produce more insulin when needed and reduce the amount of glucose being produced by the liver. They create feelings of fullness and satiety and reduce the rate at which the stomach digests food and empties. Several GLP-1 receptor agonists have also demonstrated cardiovascular benefits. Until recently, all GLP-1 receptor agonists were administered by subcutaneous injection, although now a once-daily oral formulation is available.
These two newer classes of medications can reduce the burden of heart and kidney disease for patients with Type 2 diabetes in addition to their ability to help manage glucose levels.