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Can a diabetes medication benefit asthma patients?

GLP-1 receptor agonists may benefit patients who have asthma, suggests new research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

In the retrospective, observational study, researchers analyzed electronic health record data of patients with asthma and type 2 diabetes who initiated treatment with GLP-1R agonists and found lower rates of asthma exacerbations and reduced asthma symptoms when compared to patients who used type 2 diabetes medications other than GLP-1R agonists.

"In a six-month period, type 2 diabetes patients who received this form of medication to improve blood sugar control also had better control of their asthma disease and symptoms compared to those who took alternative therapies," said lead author of the study, Katherine Cahill, MD, from Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), in a news release. "We have demonstrated really for the first time that this class of medications used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity may also have benefit for our patients who have asthma.”

According to Cahill, they found that patients reported better breathing symptoms and had fewer episodes of shortness of breath and cough.

"In our study we found that patients with asthma received benefits from this medication because they had improved asthma control, so fewer asthma symptoms, and fewer acute flares, or what we call exacerbations, of their asthma," Cahill said.

Other early preclinical data also suggest it is possible for GLP-1R agonists to have benefits for other airway diseases.

Cahill and VUMC colleagues have received NIH funding to initiate a randomized, controlled clinical trial of GLP-1R agonists for asthma, which will be necessary to confirm that these medications do provide benefit for asthma.

Loren Bonner, senior editor

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