Breakthrough Type 1 Diabetes Drug Now Offered at OU Health

Breakthrough Type 1 Diabetes Drug Now Offered at OU Health

A new treatment targeting the root cause of Type 1 diabetes is now available at OU Health, and for pediatric patients at high risk, this new medication can potentially delay the onset of the disease while also reducing the symptoms.

The first of its kind since insulin, Tzield, or Teplizumab, is an injectable prescription medication that contains two drugs used to delay the onset of Stage 3 Type 1 diabetes, the latest and most severe stage of the disease when a clinical diagnosis typically takes place.

The Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health team recently completed the first infusion of the drug in a pediatric patient in Oklahoma.

“There have been incredible advances in insulins in the past 102 or so years for sure, but it’s exciting to be a part of a next evolution in care,” said pediatric endocrinologist David Sparling, M.D., Ph.D, Section Chief of Pediatric Diabetes and Endocrinology and CMRI Paul and Ann Milburn Chair in Pediatric Diabetes in the Department of Pediatrics at The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

Tzield is the first new medication to help treat Type 1 diabetes since the discovery of insulin. While insulin injections help replace the lost beta cell and pancreatic function in persons with diabetes, Tzield aims to slow the autoimmune destruction of the beta cells that occurs in Type 1 diabetes. This lets the body continue to produce its own insulin, decreasing the need for insulin injections. Tzield is only approved in early forms of diabetes when more beta cells are still present and ongoing normal insulin is still produced.

“Our team for years has been striving to bring every new treatment for kids with diabetes into the clinic as quickly as possible — new insulins, new pumps, continuous glucose monitors, nasal and pre-mixed glucagon formulations, and partial-closed loop artificial pancreas systems,” said Sparling. “On top of that, we’ve been maintaining an active research arm looking for causes and the best treatments of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in kids.”

That research, which takes place at OU Health Harold Hamm Diabetes Center at The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences, brings OU Health patients access to the latest treatments and research breakthroughs and to clinical trials networks like TrialNet. TrialNet is an international network of academic institutions, endocrinologists, physicians, scientists and healthcare teams leading Type 1 diabetes research and offering risk screening and clinical studies. TrialNet has many arms, several of which OU Health are a part of.

Teplizumab was first characterized and studied within TrialNet and once was found to be beneficial, the treatment was expanded into a full clinical trial. Once the Stage 3 trials demonstrated a benefit to persons with Type 1 diabetes, it was approved by the FDA, enabling treatments to begin.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system destroys the cells that make insulin, so people with the disease require insulin shots or an insulin pump to survive. Usually diagnosed in children and young adults, Type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, and most patients have no family history of the disease. Identification and treatment of high-risk children can prevent serious complications like diabetic ketoacidosis from occurring, as well as slow the need for treatment.

Tzield is prescribed for adults and children 8 years and older who are considered high-risk for a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Risks include testing positive for two or more Type 1 diabetes-related autoantibodies, having abnormal blood sugar levels and no diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.

The drug blocks a step in the immune system that’s known to lead to diabetes progression and has shown to significantly delay the onset of clinical diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes by two to five years.

Sparling said being part of an academic ecosystem where research informs new treatments means patients have access to breakthrough medications like Tzield as well as the latest and most advanced understanding of complex disease processes like diabetes.

If you or a loved one is at high risk for Type 1 diabetes, call your primary care doctor. Learn more about Tzield at Harold Hamm Diabetes Center or call (405) 271-6764 to make an appointment.