Skin drug provides positive results in boosting insulin production

by Barbara Hewitt on September 24, 2013

A drug once used to treat the skin condition psoriasis could help to boost insulin production in people recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Scientists are to carry out further studies on the use of Alefacept, a drug that was marketed as Amevive in several countries but withdrawn from use in 2011, after a small trial indicated it could be used in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.


The study shows Alefacept could be used to stabilise type 1 diabetes and even prevent its progression.

The researchers from Indiana University in the United States found that in a small trial involving 33 patients there has been a positive effect on insulin levels. Some participants were given a weekly injection of Alefacept for 12 weeks followed by a break of 12 weeks and then a further 12 weeks of injections while others were given a placebo.

There were ‘significant differences’ between the two groups in how well the pancreas produced insulin four hours after eating. Those undergoing the Alefacept injections were able to preserve insulin production while levels of the blood sugar regulating hormone in the placebo group decreased.

After 12 months, the researchers noted that insulin use increased significantly among the placebo group, but not with the Alefacept group. The latter also experienced less hypos (episodes of low blood glucose), a common problem for type 1 diabetes patients.

Lead researcher Professor Mark Rigby said the study, which is ongoing, suggests that Alefacept might preserve pancreas cell function during the first 12 months after diagnosis, and could be used to stabilise type 1 diabetes and even prevent its progression.

Karen Addington, chief executive of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF,) the type 1 diabetes charity that helped fund the research said that the results so far mean it is worth pursuing the research further. ‘Small steps forward such as this take us closer to a world without type 1 diabetes,’ she added.

Rigby confirmed that the trial will continue to see what effects Alefacept has on insulin production after 18 months and 24 months.

‘These are extremely promising results and offer hope that the progression of type 1 diabetes can be stopped or significantly slowed by a drug that was well tolerated, without serious adverse events,’ he explained.

Those taking part in the trial range from 12 to 35 years and all had recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Two thirds were randomly assigned to the group receiving Alefacept injections, with the remaining patients receiving a placebo injection of saline solution.

Alefacept is an immunosuppressant drug that binds to and interferes with the actions of certain immune system T-cells that are believed to be involved with the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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