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Type 2 diabetes medications can also protect heart health


A new study funded by us has shown that certain diabetes medications can protect people living with type 2 diabetes from serious heart complications.

Heart (or cardiovascular) disease can lead to heart attacks and strokes. People living with diabetes have a higher risk of these complications. But some type 2 diabetes medications that work to lower blood sugar levels can also help to lower cardiovascular risk.

New study into diabetes medication and heart problems

In a new study funded by us, our researchers looked at the impact of two types of type 2 diabetes medications, called SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1s) on heart problems.

They compared the risk of serious heart complications, like heart attack or stroke, in people with type 2 diabetes using these treatments to the risk in people using more traditional medications, like metformin or sulphonylureas.

They looked at data from GP and hospital records. Clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of SGLT2s and GLP1s have mainly involved people with type 2 diabetes who have a high-risk of heart disease. But this new study focused on people with a lower risk, who make up two thirds of people with type 2 diabetes.

Life-saving protection

Our researchers found that compared to people with type 2 diabetes using metformin or sulphonylureas, the risk of developing heart failure was:

  • 51% lower for people with type 2 diabetes taking SGLT2 inhibitors
  • 18% lower for people taking GLP-1s
  • 57% lower for people taking both drugs

While the risk of having a heart attack or stroke was:

  • 18% lower for people taking SGLT2 inhibitors
  • 7% lower for people taking GLP-1s
  • 30% lower for people taking both drugs

The researchers pointed out that people with type 2 diabetes are less likely to be prescribed SGLT2s or GLP-1s than more traditional type 2 treatments like metformin and sulphonylureas. This is partly because they’re more expensive options. But these new findings suggest that we need more research to find out their longer-term cost-effectiveness.

Professor Martin Rutter from the University of Manchester, who led the study, said:

The good news is that SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 drugs not only control diabetes, but they also reduce the risk of developing serious cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke.

“And that could save thousands of lives every year - not to mention the avoidance of chronic illness in those who survive heart attacks and strokes.

“The protective effect of these two types of medication can be seen as soon as patients start to receive them - though the longer they take them, the greater the protection.”

Dr Faye Riley, our Senior Research Communications Officer, said:

Heart disease remains the leading cause of reduced life expectancy in people with diabetes so finding the right care at the right time to support people to reduce their risk could be life-saving.

“This study adds to the evidence on the effectiveness of different medications for type 2 diabetes to protect against serious heart complications. However, it remains essential that healthcare professionals make treatment decisions based on people’s individual needs, as not all medications are suitable for everyone with type 2 diabetes.”



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