Outrage over dapagliflozin withdrawal for type 1 diabetes in EU


In a shocking, yet low-key, announcement, the sodium-glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor dapagliflozin (Forxiga, AstraZeneca) has been withdrawn from the market in all EU countries for the indication of type 1 diabetes.

Package of forxiga Courtesy AstraZeneca

This includes withdrawal in the U.K., which was part of the EU when dapagliflozin was approved for type 1 diabetes in 2019, but following Brexit, is no longer.

AstraZeneca said the decision is not motivated by safety concerns but points nevertheless to an increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) associated with SGLT2 inhibitors in those with type 1 diabetes, which it said might cause “confusion” among physicians using the drug to treat numerous other indications for which this agent is now approved.

DKA is a potentially dangerous side effect resulting from acid build-up in the blood and is normally accompanied by very high glucose levels. DKA is flagged as a potential side effect in type 2 diabetes but is more common in those with type 1 diabetes. It can also occur as “euglycemic” DKA, which is ketosis but with relatively normal glucose levels (and therefore harder for patients to detect). Euglycemic DKA is thought to be more of a risk in those with type 1 diabetes than in those with type 2 diabetes.

One charity believes concerns around safety are the underlying factor for the withdrawal of dapagliflozin for type 1 diabetes in Europe, suggesting that AstraZeneca might not want to risk income from more lucrative indications – such as type 2 diabetes with much larger patient populations – because of potential concerns from doctors, who may be deterred from prescribing the drug due to concerns about DKA.

JDRF International, a leading global type 1 diabetes charity, called on AstraZeneca in a statement “to explain to people affected by type 1 diabetes why the drug has been withdrawn.”

It added that dapagliflozin is the “only other drug besides insulin” to be licensed in Europe for the treatment of type 1 diabetes and represents a “major advancement since the discovery of insulin 100 years ago.”

Karen Addington, U.K. Chief Executive of JDRF, said it is “appalling” that the drug has been withdrawn, as “many people with type 1 are finding it an effective and useful tool to help manage their glucose levels.”

SGLT2 inhibitors never approved for type 1 diabetes in U.S.

Dapagliflozin and other drugs from the SGLT2 inhibitor class had already been approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes for a number of years when dapagliflozin was approved in early 2019 for the treatment of adults with type 1 diabetes meeting certain criteria by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which at that time included the U.K. in its remit, based on data from the DEPICT series of phase 3 trials.

SGLT2 inhibitors have also recently shown benefit in other indications, such as heart failure and chronic kidney disease – even in the absence of diabetes – leaving some to label them a new class of wonder drugs.

Following the 2019 EU approval for type 1 diabetes, dapagliflozin was subsequently recommended for this use on the National Health Service (NHS) in England and Wales and was accompanied by guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which has now had to be withdrawn.

Of note, dapagliflozin was never approved for use in type 1 diabetes in the United States (where it is known as Farxiga), with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration turning it down in July 2019.

An advisory panel for the FDA also later turned down another SGLT2 inhibitor for type 1 diabetes, empagliflozin (Jardiance, Boehringer Ingelheim) in Nov. 2019, as reported by this news organization.


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