Diabetic patients are offered a breakthrough once a day pill that flushes out excess sugar from the body, bringing the condition under control.
The tablet, which is taken in the morning, is the first new treatment to combat type 1 diabetes in almost 100 years.
The drug, called Forxiga, is used in addition to existing diabetes medicines and is aimed at people with the most difficult forms of the disease.
Experts hope that the combination reduces the risk of serious long-term complications, including blindness and limb amputations. And in the short term, patients can drop the dose of other necessary medication, which means fewer side effects. They also lose weight.
Diabetes is a condition that causes a lot of sugar in the blood. The most recent figures suggest that the disease has been diagnosed in 3.8 million Britons.
Because the use of Clare Blaydon-Ellis is a stone and a half lost – & # 39; a very pleasant bonus & # 39 ;, she says
Nine out of ten people suffer from type 2 diabetes, where insulin – the hormone responsible for moving sugar from the blood to cells that need it for energy – stops working.
Often this is due to obesity and in some patients losing weight can help keep the disease under control or even reverse it without medication.
In type 1 diabetes, which affects 400,000 people in the UK, the pancreas stops completely producing insulin.
This happens because the immune system gets confused and attacks the pancreas, although the reason why is unknown.
The condition is incurable and patients rely on multiple daily injections of artificial insulin for the rest of their lives.
Nevertheless, some patients still have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels adequately. In the long term, high blood sugar levels cause damage and inflammation in the body, significantly increasing the risk of heart disease, eye problems, kidney damage and poor wound healing. If the levels cannot be lowered easily, patients must inject more insulin – but this itself causes other problems.
High doses increase the risk of hypoglycaemia, or "a hypo", when the blood sugar level falls sharply.
Usually this causes trembling, sweating and confusion and can lead to loss of consciousness.
In type 1 diabetes, which affects 400,000 people in the UK, the pancreas completely stops producing insulin (stock image)
Forxiga is taken together with insulin and helps keep blood sugar levels within the normal range. Studies have shown that patients can lower their insulin dose while taking the new drug, and experts claim that they have fewer hypos.
Forxiga works by blocking the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Instead, it is flushed away in urine. Because it helps to reduce the amount of sugar in the body, it also causes weight loss and lowers blood pressure.
A disadvantage is that there is a greater risk of urinary tract infections due to the increased amount of sugar in patients' urine.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – the NHS spending watchdog – has sanctioned the use of the drug by diabetes specialists at the hospital, which must be performed alongside existing insulin regimens.
Forxiga costs the NHS only £ 10 per week per patient and can help an estimated 90,000 type 1 patients to control their blood sugar levels.
Consultant Parth Narendran, who has treated several patients with the drug at University Hospital Birmingham, says it is a step forward in treatment.
"The discovery of insulin nearly 100 years ago turned a murderer into a manageable disease," he says. & # 39; But insulin injections cannot perfectly replicate the function of the pancreas and so patients get these spikes in their blood sugar levels despite doing everything to keep them within safe margins.
"Now we have the first new drug since insulin and hopefully we will see more patients with improved diabetes control and fewer complications in the future."
Clare Blaydon-Ellis, 36, a medical scientist from Royston, Hertfordshire, has had type 1 diabetes since she was four.
Although it is generally always well controlled, she has had problems with high blood sugar levels. At one point, Clare, who is married to a four-year-old son, needed emergency laser treatment to repair the retina in one eye, because it was damaged by dangerously high sugar levels.
"Fortunately it was noticed early and my vision is not affected," she says. & # 39; But it was a reminder of what high blood sugar can do. & # 39;
She uses Forxiga 18 months after hearing that it was tested in a clinical trial.
Because it already had a license for use in type 2 diabetes, this meant that her doctor legally attached it to her & # 39; off-label & # 39; could prescribe – when a drug is used to treat something, it is not approved, but the doctor has good reason to suspect that it is working. "Since I use Forxiga, I have had very few problems with blood sugar," she says.
"I lead a busy lifestyle, with my work and son to take care of and a desire to move a lot.
"So although I work hard to ensure that I always use my insulin regularly, problems may occur."
And because Clare has lost the drug, she has lost a stone and a half – "a very pleasant bonus," she says.
For the time being she has stopped taking the drug while she and husband Kevin, 39, are trying for a second child – the drug is not recommended during pregnancy.
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