A common blood pressure drug has been found to boost insulin production and reduce hypoglycemia in people with newly-diagnosed type 1 diabetes, researchers say.
Verapamil, a calcium-channel blocker (CCB) used to treat hypertensio, has previously been shown to slow beta cell decline in mice and lower blood sugar levels in adults with diabetes.
The University of Alabama researchers behind these studies now say the drug could one day be used to improve the “quality of life” for people with type 1 diabetes.
A total of 24 people aged between 18-45 were involved in the study, all of whom had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes within three months of the trial beginning. Eleven were given verapamil and the rest were given placebo.
All participants carried on with their usual insulin pump therapy, with the amount of insulin each participant was taking and episodes of hypoglycemia recorded.
The researchers discovered that taking verapamil helped restore the body’s pancreatic beta cell function, which is needed to produce insulin, enabling the body to produce more its own. This led to participants relying less on external insulin during the trial.
Dr Anath Shalev, director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center and principal investigator of the trial, said: “The data collected from our clinical trial gives us every indication to believe that individuals with type 1 diabetes have the promise of a treatment approach that would reduce their external insulin requirements and improve their blood sugar control and quality of life, thanks to the effects that verapamil has in promoting the body’s own beta cell function.”
Andrew Rakema, JDRF’s assistant vice president of research, said: “We are excited and encouraged by the recent findings from the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center’s clinical trial. This data has the potential to change how we think about treating and ultimately curing T1D.
“We look forward to continued clinical studies that will build on and confirm these findings, expanding to additional patient populations and guiding how, when and in who verapamil might have the most impact in T1D.”
The findings have been published in the Nature Medicinejournal.

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