Diabetes drug liraglutide shows “across-the-board” cardiovascular benefits

by Bruce Sylvester: Researchers have identified an across-the-board cardiovascular benefit for patients treated with a diabetes drug, liraglutide, with decreases reported in overall risk of heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death.

Their international study, entitled “Liraglutide Effect and Action in Diabetes Evaluation of Cardiovascular Outcome Results” or LEADER, was published on June 13, 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“I’ve been excited about liraglutide for a long time because I think it’s unique,” said John Buse, MD, PhD, lead author and professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “This is the first diabetes drug that has shown across-the-board benefits for cardiovascular diseases, and this suggests it plays a role in treating atherosclerosis, which is what leads to heart attacks and strokes.”

LEADER investigators enrolled 9,340 adults with type 2 diabetes who were also at high risk of heart disease. Half of the subjects in the randomized, double-blind study received liraglutide, and half received a placebo which meant that they took other diabetes drug to control their blood sugar.

Both cohorts received medications to treat conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Subjects were tracked for 3.5 – 5 years.

The investigators reported that liraglutide treatment was associated with a 13 percent lower overall risk of heart attack, stroke or death from a cardiovascular cause, a 22 percent lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, a 15 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 22 percent lower risk of new evidence of advanced kidney disease

“This changes the whole conversation about treating diabetes,” Buse added. “To date, people have taken diabetes drugs to lower blood sugar. Now we can say that they should take liraglutide to prevent or delay the worst things that occur commonly in diabetes – heart attacks, strokes, advanced kidney disease, and death.”