Diabetes effects more than 10% of the U.S. population and brings with it the risk of serious complications, high health care costs and daily difficulties for patients that are afflicted with it. This week we look at the potential of using an old drug to help people with type 1 diabetes as well as the promise of a common tool used for type 1 patients to now help type 2 patients. We also continue to look at the path Aduhelm took to approval and the hurdles it still faces, the impact of increasing patient volumes, and challenges that await companies developing mRNA-based treatments.
Each week, we highlight five things you need to know in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital recently presented updates on their trials of the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, used to treat tuberculosis, to significantly lower blood sugars in type 1 diabetics. The new data suggests that patients with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes are able to more quickly reduce their blood sugar levels than patients with adult-onset type 1 diabetes. The researchers hope to launch a pediatric trial of the vaccine this year. They hope that starting the treatment early will have an even more significant impact on lowering blood sugars in young type 1 diabetics, potentially reversing the course altogether.
2. Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) can feel frustratingly out of reach for type 2 diabetes patients
CGMs have been one of the key tools that people with type 1 diabetes use to monitor and manage their disease. For those with type 2 diabetes, though, CGMs are often difficult to get despite emerging evidence of their benefits. These challenges arise from both clinical evidence that was lacking until recently and from the doctors whom type 2 patients see. Instead of endocrinologists, most type 2 patients receive care through their primary care physicians, who may be less familiar or comfortable with CGMs as a tool to help these patients.
More details are emerging that continue to show the fraught decision process at the Food and Drug Administration over Biogen’s new Alzheimer’s treatment Aduhelm. This approval is turning into an important one to monitor as it brings together questions of internal processes at the FDA, how we should think about approvals for drugs that target a large population with a disease that is challenging to treat, and how to manage costs if the drug becomes widely prescribed.
Trends in health care are important to monitor when thinking about the direction of the life sciences industry. The significant reduction in patient visits and elective procedures last year affected everything from clinical trial enrollment to medical device sales. That makes recent improvement in patient visit volumes and the economic health of health care providers welcome news, and points to a continuing recovery in areas of the life sciences industry that were most affected by the pandemic.
Given the speed and remarkable effectiveness of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, it is easy to imagine an array of new treatments based on the technology. However, as with all promising technologies, it is helpful to think of the challenges that remain in applying it to additional diseases and in leveraging it in new ways. These challenges should be viewed not as roadblocks, but as opportunities for new research and development so that we can reap some of the possible benefits of new mRNA-based drugs.
We will pause publication the week of July 5 due to the extended Fourth of July holiday. We’ll resume our regular weekly publication the week of July 12.