A new drug to help diabetics lose weight and control their blood sugar is being trialled in 11 clinics around New Zealand.
An initial trial of the drug, ZGN-1061, had promising results in relation to both weight loss and glucose control in overweight or obese patients with type 2 diabetes who did not use insulin.
Dr Richard Carroll, an endocrinologist in Wellington who is helping run the study in the area, said the phase one trials saw patients lose between 10 and 12 per cent of their body weight over a matter of weeks and hoped phase two would be just as positive.
"We're talking about 5 per cent weight loss being beneficial [for diabetes patients]. It's a degree of weight loss that we haven't yet seen in one medicine alone. It's promising data," he said.
About 250,000 New Zealanders had diabetes, he said, most with type 2, and many more had not been diagnosed or had pre-diabetes.
Today is World Diabetes Day and around the world more than 422 million people live with diabetes. In 2015, an estimated 1.6 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes with more attributed to high blood glucose.
With such a high prevalence of diabetes, and the latest figures suggesting almost a third of New Zealanders were obese with a further 35 per cent overweight, more treatment options were needed, Carroll said.
New Zealand's "treatment armoury" was limited compared to much of the rest of the world and many drugs which helped people with diabetes actually resulted in weight gain, he said.
One of the cornerstones of diabetes management was a lifestyle change which included weight loss, Carroll said, but losing weight and keeping it off was incredibly hard for many people.
"We'd like to see that focus in early diabetes with weight loss through lifestyle changes and complementing that with medicine," he said.
Weight loss and glucose levels were areas medicine could not control, he said, but the new drug being trialled could change that.
The hope was that by improving people's glucose control there would be fewer people reliant on insulin, he said.
Graham Manning, 41, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes almost 10 years ago and did not hesitate to sign up for the trial.
"You never know," he said. "I might get on to one that's a winner, then I'm cured."
The disease was not debilitating for him, Manning said, but did leave him with pain in his feet and feeling tired.
"If it's successful and you get other people into it, then that's why [I do it]."
The Auckland man had tried to lose weight without success before and hoped the drug would help get him on the right track.
"As you lose weight you start to feel better and that might just give me the kick I need," he said. "With traditional methods it just takes so much time before you see the benefits."
He also hoped it would help him keep control of the disease and prevent him from getting to the point where he was reliant on insulin.
About the study
• 140 participants needed across Australia and New Zealand.
• Eleven clinics in Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton, Hawkes Bay and the Bay of Plenty taking part with another 12 clinics in Australia.
• Four week screening period for potential participants and 12 weeks of treatment.
• Participants must have type 2 diabetes and not be using insulin.
• Participants must be between 18 and 65, have a BMI of 27 or over and have HbA1c levels of between 53 and 97mmol/mol.
• Go to www.diabetes2clinicaltrial.com to find the nearest clinic offering the trial and see if you are eligible.