5 Troubling Findings on Glucagon Use Among Adults with Type 1 Diabetes

-Craig Idlebrook/GluCraig

Glucagon is considered a critical treatment option for severe hypoglycemia. Despite this, more than a third of adults with type 1 diabetes reported that they don’t have a current glucagon prescription, according to a recent study by T1D Exchange Patient-Centered Research and the Baylor College of Medicine.

The study’s researchers say that such findings point to the need to improve standards for education on how to use glucagon, as well as the need for easier-to-use glucagon rescue kits. The study, which was funded by Zealand Pharma, was published in the October 2018 issue of Clinical Diabetes.

For the study, researchers analyzed 322 online surveys completed by people with type 1 diabetes or their caregivers. Of those included in the study, 82 percent were adults with type 1 diabetes. The researchers asked a series of questions to determine three things – whether participants had access to glucagon, whether they had received education about glucagon, and whether they used glucagon to treat severe lows.

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Here were 5 key findings from the study:

-Just 85 percent of adults with type 1 diabetes said they had been prescribed glucagon by a healthcare provider, while a full 100 percent of the smaller group of caregivers surveyed said their child had been prescribed glucagon.

-Only 71 percent of adults with type 1 diabetes said they had been educated about how to use glucagon in an emergency situation.

-Just 68 percent of adults with type 1 diabetes said they had a current glucagon prescription.

-Perhaps most troubling, only 18 percent of the 90 adults who had received glucagon reported that it was administered problem-free. Most who received glucagon for a low reported a host of problems about the experience.

-And just over half of adults (51 percent) with type 1 diabetes reported treating severe hypoglycemia with something instead of glucagon.

If glucagon is the gold standard for treating severe lows, those numbers should give clinicians pause.

While the researchers say that such findings suggest the need for better standardization of glucagon prescribing practices and education on glucagon use, they also point out that better rescue kit design might increase the use of glucagon in critical situations. It will be interesting to note whether the rate of glucagon use will increase if a new wave of glucagon rescue kits makes it to market.

In 2018, two new glucagon kits – Xeris Pharmaceuticals’ room-temperature-stable glucagon pen and Lilly’s nasal glucagon – have been submitted to the FDA for approval. Zealand Pharma also recently announced positive stage 3 results of clinical trials of a new glucagon pen it is developing.

You can read about the study in Clinical Diabetes here.  

1/11/2019 – This article has been edited to add mention of Zealand Pharma’s role in the study, and its trials on glucagon. 


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