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A new class of diabetes medication

Did you know that there are now revised national guidelines for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes? These revised guidelines will allow doctors to prescribe a new class of medication which avoids the side effects of weight gain and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) associated with some of the conventional diabetes treatments.

The first line of defence in the battle to control Type 2 diabetes is still to encourage lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy diet and regular exercise, as well as by blood sugar moderation using glucose lowering Type 2 diabetes medication that stem the liver’s glucose production.

Until now, when this medication failed, the next step was either to stabilise blood sugar using medication which increases the body’s natural insulin production, called sulphonylureas; or to artificially raise insulin levels by injecting insulin. But these medications often cause significant weight gain and hypoglycaemia, a condition in which blood sugar levels dip too low, causing varying symptoms such as blurred vision, elevated heart rate and agitation that can result in confusion, coma or even death.

The new guidelines, drawn up in consultation with government and published by the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA) in April this year, allow doctors to prescribe a new type of medication which uses incretin hormones to stimulate the amount of insulin released by the pancreas. Incretin therapy doesn’t have the same adverse effects of weight gain and plummeting blood sugar levels.

“The old guidelines were policy-centric, prescriptive and inflexible,” said Prof Jeffrey Wing from the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital, speaking on the use of incretins in diabetes treatment at the Incretin Leadership Summit hosted by global healthcare company Novo Nordisk in early May.

“The new guidelines are democratic, they’re more patient-centric,” he said. “They also allow for doctors to prescribe incretin therapy before moving on to the use of sulphonylureas or insulin”.

“Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and obesity are parallel epidemics”, explained specialist physician Dr Adri Kok from the faculty of consulting physicians of South Africa, who treats some 8 000 diabetic patients in her Johannesburg-based practice.

“Incretin treatment allows for the control of diabetes, without exacerbating the obesity problem, along with the associated risks of arthritis, sleep apnoea, high blood pressure, cholesterol and certain cancers. Switching from traditional second-step medicines onto the new incretins often comes with significant weight loss and no risk of low blood sugars”.

“I’ve seen firsthand (how incretins) improve patients’ lives because of the weight loss. They feel more energetic. They don’t fear low blood sugars. They have better control of their diabetes.”

The Incretin Leadership Summit was hosted in Cape Town by global healthcare company Novo Nordisk.

What do you think? Would you like to try incretin treatment if it was made available to you?

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  1. susan fairall susan fairall

    This sounds amazing. I am unemployed, and do not have medical aid. I cannot even afford the strips to monitor my diabetes but when I can get to the clinic my sugar levels are around 18.
    I am now living on soup with lots of lentils and beans but still battle.

  2. Karen Knox Karen Knox

    would definitely like to try it as my blood sugars are still not under control. I feel I’m still not on the right combination of medication for my diabetes

  3. Antoinette Antoinette

    I was diagnosed as a diabetic type 2. When I asked my doctor what the difference was between type 1 and 2, he said nothing, it is just terminology. Although I have read a lot on the internet, I am still left confused.

  4. Alfred Colema Alfred Colema

    Where can one purchase this new medication?

  5. Debra Harvey Debra Harvey

    Can it be used by type 1 diabetics, I would really be interest in trying this medication. I used to be one of Dr Adri Koks Patients.

    • I think it’s specifically for Type 2 diabetics, Debra… But our artificial pancreas is coming soon (I hope!) 😉

  6. Cheryl Cheryl

    I take gliophagr xr 2000 mg a day I get terrible pains and swelling in my legs and bringing feet us there another meducation I can tak

  7. fredyl cicero fredyl cicero

    Where can i get it?what is its name.

    • Hi Fredyl,
      This article is actually from 2012, so you can contact Novo Nordisk directly with questions ( or 011 202 0500).

  8. I am definitely interested my lowest and latest Hypo was1.4 this morning in a high care ward in MEDICLINIC in Trichardt Mpumalanga. South Africa. I have also been diagnosed with acute kidney failure and no one has been able to stabilize my sugar with all the Hypos. Tracy

    • Oh dear, so sorry to hear this Tracy! What do the doctors say? I hope they can help soon…

  9. bibi kara bibi kara

    i am currently on janumet and insulin. i wish to try an alternative medication. i want to be healthy from now on. i am struggling with my feet.

    • Hi Bibi,
      It’s best to go to your doctor or clinic and ask about medication changes (this article was actually from 5 years ago). It’s great that you want to be healthy! Let us know what they say.

  10. Tobeka Mdiza Tobeka Mdiza

    My sister is diabetic and struggles with sweating and tired all the time all my brothers and parents passed away she is the only thing I have I don’t want her to die pls help (079 304 1952)

  11. Tobeka Mdiza Tobeka Mdiza

    I need help my sister is type2 and loosing weght dramatically

    • Hi Tobeka,
      Take your sister to your local clinic or doctor and they’ll be able to help – she shouldn’t be losing weight or tired all the time, it’s important to get her checked out by a medical professional (unfortunately we aren’t doctors).
      Please let us know what they say? Good luck!

What do you think?

Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.