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I heard that there was a new drug for diabetes. What is it?

The FDA recently approved a novel medication for Type 2 diabetes that some consider to possibly be the one of the most significant advances in diabetes medications in several years. The new medication is called Rybelsus, an oral version of the injectable drug semaglutide. Semaglutide and several other medications in this family (GLP-1 receptor agonists) are already available but must be taken by injection because these molecules are very large and are not absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, until now. A new technology called SNAC enhances the gastrointestinal absorption of the active drug and allows it to be taken by mouth.

Rybelsus has been shown to be safe and is very effective at lowering high blood sugar levels. It is also associated with significant weight loss and may soon be approved for that indication. Its primary side-effects are similar to other GLP-1 receptor agonists and include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and reduced appetite. The nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting are typically self-limiting if they are experienced. The cost of this medication is probably going to be close to or less than its injectable competition, and it should be available by the end of the year.

John R. White is the chair of the Department of Pharmacotherapy at WSU-Spokane and the author of Medications for the Treatment of Diabetes, which the American Diabetes Association calls, "the most authoritative guide to diabetes therapeutics available."

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