Can an Antihypertensive Drug Preserve Beta Cell Function in Early Type 1 diabetes?


A study published this week in Nature reported that an FDA-approved antihypertensive drug, verapamil, might slow the progression of beta cell destruction at Type 1 diabetes onset.

What is verapamil?

Verapamil is an FDA-approved drug that has been used as an antihypertensive for over 30 years in the USA. It acts as a calcium-channel blocker that relaxes blood vessels and is often prescribed to treat high blood pressure, angina, and other cardiovascular conditions.

In mice, verapamil has been shown to lower beta cell expression of a protein called TXNIP (thioredoxin-interacting protein). TXNIP is associated with beta cell death – so by targeting TXNIP with verapamil drug therapy, the hope is to help preserve beta cells and insulin production.

Who might be impacted by this research?

26 adults 18-44 years old who were diagnosed with clinical Type 1 diabetes in the previous 3 months participated in this study. Researchers wanted to see the effect of adding verapamil to a standard insulin regimen over the course of a year. This study was a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial – a study design that is the standard to show safety and efficacy of a new drug therapy.

What was the effect of taking verapamil?

Verapamil added to standard insulin therapy over the course of one year promoted existing beta cell function, lowered insulin injection requirements and lowered episodes of low blood sugar. Only mild side effects were reported, the most common being constipation.

Researchers reporting the results of this study note that the addition of once-daily oral verapamil may be a safe and effective novel addition to early onset Type 1 diabetes in adults. For now, that would be an off-label use of verapamil, pending future FDA approval.

Will verapamil join the growing list of drugs (taken in addition to insulin) as tools for Type 1 diabetes management? For now, this represents an exciting example of preserved beta cell function – a promising avenue of research moving towards improved treatment of Type 1, or even a one-day “functional cure.”

Read the study here and check out more news stories from Beyond Type 1.