GOOD NEWS in diabetes treatment. New drugs allow patients to lower doses of insulin or stop taking it entirely.

For over 20 years, Betsy Chadwell carried her insulin pens everywhere. Day in and day out, she carefully calibrated the doses needed to keep her TYPE 2 diabetes in check.'' '' Every meal and every morning and every night - it controls your life,'' she said.

In late 2021, she started taking the diabetes drug Ozempic. Within months, she was able to stop taking the short-acting insulin she typically took, before each meal, and she has substantially reduced the dose of long-acting insulin she uses daily.

Scaling back on insulin has given her a sense of freedom, she said. But still uses a continuous glucose monitor to track her blood sugar, meticulously watching for slumps and spikes - but even as she took less insulin, she said, Ozempic has helped her glucose levels more under control.

Billions of people the world over rely on some form of insulin, a lifesaving drug that has long been a mainstay of diabetes treatment. But it can also be a burden to patients like Ms. Chadwell, who must juggle different formulations and doses, and often must have insulin on hand at all times.

'' I really feel for those patients, because you can never stop having it in the back of your mind,'' said Dr. Scott Hagan, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington who studies obesity.

But in recent years, Ozempic and a similar drug, Mounjaro - weekly shots that can lower blood sugar in part by mimicking a hormone that stimulates insulin production  - have offered patients a new option to try managing their Type 2 diabetes without relying as heavily on insulin.

And drugmakers are examining other ways these drugs might work alongside insulin : Novo Nordisk, the company that makes Ozempic, is studying a new drug called IcoSema, a weekly shot that combines insulin icodec [ an ultra long-acting version of insulin ] and semaglutide, the compound in Ozempic.

While it hasn't yet published the full results, Novo Nordisk has said that promising but preliminary data from two trials suggest that IcoSema might lead to better glucose control than insulin or semaglutide alone.

Previous trials have suggested that people taking semaglutide ortirzepatide, the substance in Mounjaro, alongside insulin had better blood sugar control and lost more weight than those taking insulin alone.

Patients already using these drugs in tandem often do so with the hope of lowering how much insulin they take, or weaning off it.

This Essay Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks Dani Blum.


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