Arthritis offers hope for T1D

A commonly prescribed drug for rheumatoid arthritis could be used to slow the progress of Type 1 diabetes, new research shows.In the study, the immunotherapy drug baricitinib was tested daily for 48 weeks in a trial of 60 people recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  Immunotherapies work by retraining the immune system to hold off its attack on the pancreas. When people are first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes the immune system hasn’t quite finished its destruction of insulin-producing beta cells, meaning that up to 20% may still be alive.

After 48 weeks, the C-peptide levels in those taking baricitinib were significantly higher than in a placebo group and their levels stayed fairly constant over the course of the study, whereas the placebo group saw a decline. This suggests the treatment had helped to slow the immune system’s destruction of beta cells. Those in the baricitinib group also used less daily insulin through injections or pumps, had less variability in their sugar levels, and spent more time in target blood sugar range, compared to the placebo group.

The research findings showed that baricitinib could help people to keep hold of more of these remaining beta cells, to preserve the body’s own supply of insulin. These benefits have been linked with a reduced risk of hypos and the longer-term complications of diabetes. While it could also make day-to-day management of type 1 diabetes simpler and less unpredictable.

The next step would be a larger and longer-running clinical trial to build firmer evidence on the safety and benefits of baricitinib for people with Type 1. This evidence would then be put to regulatory bodies who decide if new treatments should be licensed.

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