Added benefits

This study revealed that ertugliflozin benefits the kidneys (illustrated above). The study was led by Dr. David Cherney (pictured) at the Toronto General Hospital, where insulin was first used clinically in 1922. (Graphic: UHN StRIDe Team)​​​

Research findings from UHN’s Toronto General Hospital Research Institute reveal the long-term effects on the kidneys of the recently approved Type 2 diabetes drug ertugliflozin.

Like all forms of diabetes, the Type 2 form is characterized by high blood sugar. When added to standard care for the disease, ertugliflozin can help diabetes patients lower their blood sugar levels by blocking sugar reabsorption in the kidneys.

“Although ertugliflozin had been shown to be an effective therapy for lowering blood sugar, there was a need to determine the long-term effects, even beneficial ones,” says Dr. David Cherney, lead author of the new research findings. “Understanding the full effects of the drug is particularly important given that Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious complications such as heart attacks or kidney failure.”

To investigate the long-term effects of ertugliflozin, a clinical trial, known as VERTIS CV, was launched in 2013. Over the course of the study, the trial included participants from 34 countries and more than 500 sites.

First analyses of the VERTIS CV trial’s results, which were published last September, established that ertugliflozin was safe for the cardiovascular system but did not significantly reduce the likelihood of fatal cardiovascular events.

More recently, Dr. Cherney, who served on the clinical trial’s Scientific Advisory Committee, used the data to explore the effects of the drug on the kidneys. In addition to determining that the drug was safe for the kidneys, his team found that the drug also helped to preserve kidney function.

“We found that patients treated with ertugliflozin experience a 34 per cent reduction in overall risk for negative kidney outcomes such as loss of kidney function, the need for a kidney transplant or dialysis, or death from kidney disease,” says Dr. Cherney.

Remarkably, the research team furthermore found that treatment with ertugliflozin improved the ability of the kidneys to prevent leakage of protein into the urine.

These findings continue a long legacy of research into treatments and strategies to improve the lives of individuals living with diabetes. This year and the following one mark the 100th anniversaries of the discovery of insulin and its first clinical treatment. Discovered by Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto, insulin injections were used to treat a patient for the first time in January 1922 at the Toronto General Hospital.

This life-saving practice continues to this day.

While insulin has transformed diabetes treatment, there is still much work to do towards improving the quality of life of patients – work that is ongoing at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute.

This work was supported in part by UHN Foundation donors.

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