Diabetes drug may prevent, slow kidney disease according to study

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The study tested Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ drug Invokana. Results were discussed recently at a medical meeting in Australia and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

About 30 million Americans and more than 420 million people worldwide have diabetes , and most cases are Type 2, the kind tied to obesity. It occurs when the body can’t make enough or properly use insulin, which turns food into energy.

This can damage the kidneys over time, causing disease and ultimately, failure. In the U.S., it’s responsible for nearly half a million people needing dialysis, and for thousands of kidney transplants each year.

For the study, about 13,000 people with Type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease from around the world were to be given Invokana or dummy pills. Independent monitors stopped the study early, after 4,400 people had been treated for about 2 1/2 years on average, when it was clear the drug was helping.

Those on the drug had a 30% lower risk of one of these problems — kidney failure, need for dialysis, need for a kidney transplant, death from kidney- or heart-related causes, or other signs that kidneys were failing.

For every 1,000 people taking the drug for 2 1/2 years, there would be 47 fewer cases of one of these problems, researchers estimate.

Janssen, which is part of Johnson & Johnson, sponsored the study and many authors work or consult for the company. The drug costs about $500 a month. Out-of-pocket costs for patients may be different, depending on insurance.

In recent years, several studies have found that Invokana and some similar drugs can lower heart risks. The new results, showing that Invokana also may stall or prevent kidney failure, expand the potential benefits of the drug.