A drug currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis has been found to have positive effects in young people and children who are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo (UB) say they have found that golimumab, marketed as Simponi, preserves beta-cell function.

The drug is also used to treat ulcerative colitis and other autoimmune conditions. Because of the way the drug worked, the research team found it impacted the amount of insulin each participant needed, because it helped keep the body producing its own insulin.

Professor Teresa Quattrin, from the Department of Pediatrics, senior associate dean for research integration in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, said: “This study shows that golimumab is a potential disease-modifying agent for newly diagnosed patient with type 1 diabetes.

“The main goal of the study was to see if golimumab could preserve beta-cell function in these newly diagnosed patients.”

The trial involved 84 young people aged between six and 21 years. Two-thirds of the participants were given golimumab and the remaining third received a placebo. The medication was administered within 100 days of the child’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis.

At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that among the children aged under 18, had 36 per cent fewer episodes where blood sugar dropped low.

Professor Quattrin added: “In this study, both golimumab and placebo groups achieved good blood sugar control, but patients treated with golimumab achieved it with less insulin.”

The findings were recently unveiled at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association on June 13.

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