Health Watch: Type 2 Drugs

As president of a car dealership, Eric Rehkemper is a busy man.

He stays cool under pressure, all while managing Type 1 diabetes.

"It's a 24/7, seven days a week, whether you're on vacation or whether you're working the job. It's something that always factors into everything you're doing," Rehkemper said.

The only approved drug to keep Type 1 diabetics alive is insulin, but it's dangerously easy to over and under-dose.

"Insulin is difficult and risky and challenging," said Janet McGill, MD, an endocrinologist at Washington University St. Louis.

The treatments for Type 1 and 2 diabetes are different. But doctors are now trying Type 2 drugs on Type 1 patients.

"What these drugs offer is a little reprieve from doing everything perfectly just with insulin," Dr. McGill said.

One class of type two drugs called GLP1 receptor agonists lower insulin doses and improve blood sugars. Another class, called SGLT2 inhibitors significantly lower blood sugar levels for many type ones.

Dr. McGill explained, "It reduces some of the very high blood sugars that occur after meals."

SGLT2 inhibitors also improve heart and kidney health.

"Some get quite noticeably good results," said Dr. McGill.

Rehkemper has seen big improvements in his blood sugar by taking an SGL2 inhibitor along with his insulin.

"It has been such a great improvement on my body. Probably added 10, 15 years to my life, I would say," said Rehkemper.

Another common drug for Type 2 diabetes, metformin, has also shown to reduce insulin needs for some Type 1 diabetics while improving blood sugar control. It's important for patients with Type 1 diabetes to discuss the pros and cons of each of these drugs to determine if any of them are an appropriate addition to their current treatment.

Contributors: Stacie Overton Johnson, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Jamison Kozcan, Editor.
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