Diabetes Game-Changer: A Once-Weekly Insulin
Editor’s Note: People who take insulin require consistently affordable and predictable sources of insulin at all times. If you or a loved one are struggling to afford or access insulin, visit GetInsulin.org.
During the 2022 Advanced Technologies and Treatments for Diabetes Conference (ATTD), researchers shared promising data on a new once-weekly insulin that could change the daily workload of diabetes management for many.
What is insulin therapy?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body use glucose for energy and that works to manage healthy blood glucose levels. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This leads to little-or-no insulin production. In type 2 diabetes, a person’s pancreas struggles to either produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels, or their body struggles to make use of the insulin they do produce.
Insulin therapy is just one of many forms of diabetes management that consists of injecting, inhaling, or pumping insulin to help keep blood glucose levels stable.
In type 1 diabetes, starting insulin immediately after diagnosis is critical. In other types of diabetes, it can vary greatly from person-to-person when or if you will need insulin to manage healthy blood glucose levels. Being prescribed insulin does not mean your diabetes diagnosis is getting “worse” or that you have “failed” at your diabetes management! It is merely another tool to help you live your best, healthiest life with diabetes.
What is once-weekly insulin?
Today, the most modern and most commonly used types of insulin include rapid-acting (taken with meals or to correct high blood sugars) and long-acting (taken once or twice per day). While some of today’s long–acting insulins are active in your system for over 24 hours, they are all intended to be taken at least once per day.
Both Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are developing a once-weekly injectable long-acting insulin.
- Eli Lilly: Basal Insulin Fc;BiF
- Novo Nordisk: Icodec
These new insulin formulas have prolonged half-lives, meaning the body absorbs it more slowly and therefore it stays in your system longer. In this case, these newer forms of long-acting insulins will continue working in your system for a week. Similar to other insulins used today, these new once-weekly insulins can be delivered via syringe, vial, or with multi-use devices like pens.
What are the benefits of once-weekly insulin?
Whether it’s once a day or multiple times a day, injecting insulin can be a huge burden for people with diabetes. Remembering how much insulin to inject, when to inject, forgetting to inject before a meal, and even overcoming fears of needles are all hurdles that people on insulin therapy face.
“You have to personalize your insulin therapy, for each patient, for every day, actually for every injection,” reminded Dr. Piber during a presentation.
The potential benefits of a once-weekly injectable insulin include:
- Taking 52 insulin injections per year vs. 365
- Increase your overall time in range
- Lower your A1c
- Make insulin easier and simpler to take
Who is a potential candidate for once-weekly insulin therapy?
- People with type 2 diabetes, MODY, gestational diabetes
- People struggling with insulin resistance (including type 1)
Having more options for insulin therapy is always beneficial to people with diabetes—but only if it is affordable and accessible to those who need it. Time will tell on the actual price of this once-weekly insulin.
These new insulins are still undergoing clinical trials and are likely a few years out from FDA-approval. However, the results from these early trials show that many people with diabetes may benefit tremendously from a once-weekly injectable insulin. Stay tuned!