Actually, at the annual ADA conference last week, the CNN Money correspondent covering Amylin spent a good deal of time sitting right next to me, but since peering over the shoulder of journalists as they're typing is a faux pas at best, I don't have the financial scoop. What I can tell you is that the word among conference attendees was WOW about Byetta (scientific name Exenatide). Weight loss results are more significant than expected, especially in the most overweight patients, and the drug is turning out to have significant beta cell preservation effects. Looking like a blockbuster, which I'm pretty sure is highly unusual for an injectable drug.
There are even rumors (rumors, I say!) that the insulin companies might be getting nervous, since Byetta's results are so impressive that some patients are coming off insulin, and/or being advised by their doctors to start on Byetta first -- which somehow seems more palatable to many Type 2's who've been reluctant to start insulin (although insulin is also available in the same kind of easy, painless pen delivery devices as Byetta). But somehow Byetta is just hot. And who wouldn't like a little help losing weight? And having their beta cells regenerated?
One Amylin rep explained patiently to me that Byetta causes three unique actions in the body:
- Reducing the appetite by affecting the receptors in the brain that alert you when you are "full"
- Slowing gastric emptying, which means your digestion slows down. This process is separate but complementary to #1
- Stimulating the beta cells to make more insulin
A new study presented at the conference on Saturday underscored the value of Byetta/Exenatide in islet cell transplantation: twice-daily injections help to preserve the injected beta cells in the patient's body, which is currently the biggest drawback to islet cell grafting. Normally, the islet function declines over time, so the patient needs to restart insulin or have another round of islet cell transplantation conducted.
"Islet cell transplant patients usually need insulin after 4-5 years at the latest. Byetta helps reverse this trend," says Dr. Camilo Ricordi, world-reknown islet cell research specialist and director of the Florida-based Diabetes Research Institute. "One pilot study of the new NIH Clinical Transplant Consortium will be looking at the effect of Byetta on islet mass, which also looks promising."
Sounds like a winner to me.