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Novo Nordisk launches new Rybelsus pill for type 2 diabetes in the UK

Published on 02/09/20 at 12:08pm
Photo by Darryl Leja, NHGRI

Novo Nordisk’s new type 2 diabetes treatment Rybelsus is now available for doctors and physicians in the UK to prescribe to adult patients. 

The drug is orally administered semaglutide and is the world’s first glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist pill (GLP-1 RA) for treating this form of diabetes.

This follows the PIONEER clinical trials, where participants were given a 14 mg dose of the drug, and 7 out of 10 patients achieved target blood sugar. Currently, 40% of adults with type 2 diabetes in the UK fail to achieve target blood sugar of <7%, which puts them at an increased risk of diabetes-related complications. 

The drug was also well tolerated, with some patients experiencing adverse reactions like nausea and diarrhoea when the treatment was used with insulin and/or sulfonylurea.

Novo Nordisk has been researching how to translate the treatment to a pill format for over a decade, and has formulated the drug with an absorption enhancer to allow it to be taken orally and absorbed within the stomach. 

Previously, GLP-1 RAs, including semaglutide, could only be delivered by injection because it is a protein-based treatment broken down by stomach acid. But over 48% of GPs said this form of treatment was a barrier to giving patients GLP-1 RAs, as the injection can cause delays and can prevent treatment goals from being met. 

Steve Bain, Professor of Medicine at Swansea University Medical School, said: “GLP-1 RAs are recognised as offering glycaemic control and weight loss benefits compared to other types of type 2 diabetes treatment, but are clinically underutilised because they are only available as injectables. Being able to offer patients the option of a GLP-1 RA in-a-pill may make it easier for physicians, including GPs, to intensify treatment earlier for people with T2D who are not controlled on their current treatment, helping them achieve their clinical treatment goals and reduce their risk of serious complications.”

Rybelsus is a cost-effective treatment for the NHS as it can offset the cost through the savings of reducing complications arising from patients with type 2 diabetes. In the UK, the cost-effectiveness of GLP-1 RAs has already been determined in national guidelines including The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Scottish Medicine Consortium.

Conor Kavanagh

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