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A diabetic girl injects herself with insulin, the most common diabetes treatment. Photo: Douglas Grundy/Three Lions/Getty

A generic drug meant to address high blood pressure may supplement insulin therapy for people with recent onset type 1 diabetes, according to a new study published Monday in Nature Medicine.

Why it matters: If validated by larger studies, the drug may allow a patient to reduce insulin shots, keep blood sugar levels more stable, and protect important pancreas cells from the disease, which affects roughly 1.25 million Americans.

What they did: The research team tested 24 adults with newly onset type 1 diabetes, with 11 supplementing their insulin with verapamil and 13 following the insulin regime alone.

What they found: The authors found that verapamil with the insulin regime helps preserve the pancreas cells that naturally produce insulin (beta cells), lessening the amount of added insulin needed as the disease progressed, while also helping stabilize blood sugar levels.

The study is one of the first to target the cell function side of type 1 diabetes (T1D), which is important, according to David Harlan, co-director of the Diabetes Center for Excellence at UMass Medical School.

  • He says, "99% of research over the past 40 years has focused on the immune system side" rather than targeting beta cells.
  • Harlan, who was not part of the study, also emphasized the safety of the drug:
"There's always a risk/benefit analysis in diabetes treatment because as bad as T1D is as a disease, with modern therapies the prognosis is outstanding. New treatments must be safe, and verapamil is a very low risk, safe drug."

Go deeper: Verapamil is already FDA approved for treating hypertension. The research team said they were unable to obtain pharmaceutical funding for their research, so they relied instead upon funding from diabetes nonprofit JDRF.

"The [pharmaceutical] industry has no interest in this drug because it's generic and kind of cheap...As much as this helps patients, there is no money to be made."
— Study author Anath Shalev to Axios

The bottom line:

  • Because the drug has already been determined to be safe, physicians could theoretically prescribe verapamil now for diabetes treatment off label.
  • Shalev hopes there will be more trials in larger populations, particularly in children and patients who've had diabetes for a longer time but have retained some ability to produce insulin.
  • Harlan said patients with type 2 diabetes, many of whom already have hypertension, could experience dual benefits of verapamil.

Yes, but: The study only involved 24 patients over a year and was only tried on patients who had new onset type 1 diabetes. The authors said larger studies are needed before the medication should be used more widely to treat diabetes.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

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