Updated 15 February 2017

Slimming drug a boon to diabetics

New data on rimonabant, a drug that has been hailed a miracle weight-loss aid, shows that it could also play an important role in the management of type 2 diabetes.

New data on rimonabant, a drug that has been hailed a miracle weight-loss aid, shows that it could also play an important role in the management of type 2 diabetes.

New research shows that patients with type 2 diabetes, who are not treated with anti-diabetic medication, experience significant improvements in blood sugar control and weight as well as other risk factors such as HDL ("good") cholesterol and triglycerides, when compared to placebo.

Rimonabant is a cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptor blocker produced by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis. The results of the study, called SERENADE, were presented on Tuesday at the World Diabetes Congress in Cape Town.

SERENADE is the second study demonstrating that rimonabant significantly improves blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

How the research was done
In the SERENADE study, treatment-naive type 2 diabetes patients, who received 20mg of rimonabant per day for six months, demonstrated a significant reduction in HbA1c levels – an important marker for blood glucose levels.

HbA1c levels dropped by 0,8% from a baseline value of 7,9 as compared to a reduction of 0,3% in the placebo group. In addition, patients with an HbA1c level greater than or equal to 8,5% at baseline significantly reduced their HbA1c levels by 1,9% with rimonabant as compared to 0,7% with placebo.

Over 50% of patients in the rimonabant arm of the trial achieved HbA1c levels below 7% - the target for good glucose control as recommended by the American Diabetes Association.

Importantly, these improvements in blood glucose control were accompanied by significant reductions in body weight of 6,7kg in patients treated with 20mg rimonabant, while patients on placebo lost only 2,7kg.

Rimonabant is currently available in the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Argentina and Austria – but not in South Africa.

Improvement of risk factors important
"The management of type 2 diabetes should not only focus on controlling blood sugar levels, but also improve other risk factors such as weight, good and bad cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure," said Prof Julio Rosenstock from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. Rosenstock was one of the investigators in the SERENADE trial.

"This study suggests that rimonabant can achieve improvement in blood glucose with the added benefit of significant weight loss and improvement in other risk factors," Rosenstock says.

Today, more than 194 million adults or 5% of adults worldwide have been diagnosed with diabetes. More than 1,5 million South Africans suffer from type 2 diabetes. – (Health24, December 2006)

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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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