Health Beat: Type 2 drugs: Life-changing for Type 1 diabetes


As president of a car dealership, Eric Rehkemper is a busy man. He stays cool under pressure, all while managing Type 1 diabetes.

"It's a 24/7, seven days a week, whether you're on vacation or whether you're working the job," Rehkemper said. "It's something that always factors into everything you're doing."

The only approved drug to keep Type 1 diabetics alive is insulin, but it's dangerously easy to over- and under-dose.

"Insulin is difficult and risky and challenging," said Dr. Janet McGill, an endocrinologist at Washington University St. Louis.

The treatments for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are different, but doctors are now trying Type 2 drugs in Type 1 patients.

"What these drugs offer is a little reprieve from doing everything perfectly just with insulin," McGill said.

One class of Type 2 drugs, called GLP1 receptor agonists, lowers insulin doses and improves blood sugars. Another class, called SGLT2 inhibitors, significantly lowers blood sugar levels for many Type 1s.

"It reduces some of the very high blood sugars that occur after meals," McGill explained.

SGLT2 inhibitors also improve heart and kidney health.

"Some get quite noticeably good results," McGill said.

Rehkemper has seen big improvements in his blood sugar by taking an SGL2 inhibitor along with his insulin.

"It has been such a great improvement on my body. Probably added 10, 15 years to my life, I would say," said Rehkemper.

Another common drug for Type 2 diabetes, metformin, has also shown to reduce insulin needs for some Type 1 diabetics while improving blood sugar control.

It's important for patients with Type 1 diabetes to discuss the pros and cons of each of these drugs to determine if any of them are an appropriate addition to their current treatment.