Conference Coverage

‘Amazing’ data for cheap beta-blocker gel for diabetic foot ulcers



STOCKHOLM – Esmolol hydrochloride gel (Galnobax, NovoLead) appears to be a safe and effective novel topical treatment option for diabetic foot ulcers, according to results from a new trial of the drug, which is widely available as a generic and is inexpensive.

Of note, the proportion of participants achieving target ulcer closure at 12 weeks with esmolol (plus standard of care) was around 60% compared with just over 40% in patients who received standard of care alone.


Presenting the findings at this year’s annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes was Ashu Rastogi, MD, a professor of endocrinology at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India.

“Esmolol can be given topically as a 14% gel and is a novel treatment option in diabetic foot ulcer,” said Dr. Rastogi.

Esmolol, a short-acting beta-adrenergic blocker, is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for cardiac indications only, such as short-term use for controlling supraventricular tachycardia. Beta-blockers are also used to treat hypertension.

However, esmolol has also been repurposed and formulated as a topical gel for the treatment of hard-to-heal diabetic foot ulcers (mainly neuropathic grade 1).

Audience member Ketan Dhatariya, MBBS, MD, PhD, a National Health Service consultant in diabetes, endocrinology, and general medicine and honorary senior lecturer at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals, England, enthused about the findings.

“This is an amazing study. I’m part of a working group looking at the updating of a guideline for the International Working Group of the Diabetic Foot, reviewing all the studies on wound healing, specifically pharmacological interventions. This is way beyond anything shown to date in terms of medical intervention. [The authors] should be congratulated; this is really astounding,” he told this news organization.

“Right now, there is very little out there in terms of pharmacological interventions that have shown benefit,” he added. “Once this study has been peer-reviewed and is published properly, it is potentially game-changing because it is a generic, worldwide, cheap, and freely available medication.”

Study across 27 sites in India

Prior phase 1/2 data have shown that 60% of ulcers completely closed with esmolol (14% gel) compared with 39% with standard of care. Encouraged by these findings, a phase 3 randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study was conducted across 27 sites in India.

Patients were a mean age of 56 years, and had a body mass index (BMI) of 25-26 kg/m2 and mean hemoglobin A1c of 8.4%-8.7%. Around 70% of participants were men. Mean ulcer area was approximately 460-500 mm2, two-thirds of the ulcers were plantar, and mean ulcer duration was 40-50 weeks.

After screening and discontinuations (39 participants), a 12-week treatment phase began with patients randomized to one of three groups: esmolol (14% gel) along with standard of care administered twice daily (57 completers); standard of care only (63 completers); or vehicle gel (placebo) along with standard of care administered twice daily (17 completers).

Standard of care comprised wound cleaning, debridement, maintenance of moist wound environment, twice-daily fresh bandages, and off-loading footwear as needed, and was provided to all participants irrespective of study group.

The 12-week treatment period was followed by an observation period of 12 weeks up to the 24-week study endpoint.

The primary efficacy endpoint was the proportion of participants achieving target ulcer closure (100% re-epithelialization without drainage or dressing requirement) within the 12-week treatment phase.

Secondary endpoints included time to target ulcer closure during the 12-week treatment phase and proportion of participants achieving target ulcer closure by 24 weeks (end of study). Investigators were blinded throughout.

Subanalyses were conducted based on ulcer location, size, and age, as well as estimated glomerular filtration rate less than 90 mL/min and ankle-brachial index under 0.9 but greater than 0.7.


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