An investigation carried out by the Institute of Comparative Medicine of the University of Yangzhou (China) has shown that leflunomide, a medication that is commonly used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, is capable of decrease glucose levels in blood and reverse insulin resistance in animal models (mice) of type 2 diabetes.

In previous human studies, it had already been observed that patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were taking the anti-inflammatory drug leflunomide were more likely to have lower blood glucose levels, and lose weight in the case that they were obese. In the new research, published in Journal of Endocrinology, the potential antidiabetic effects of this drug were tested in two different mouse models with type 2 diabetes.

Leflunomide normalized the blood glucose levels of the diabetic mice, and got the cells to respond again to insulin

In type 2 diabetes, cells do not respond to insulin, and this causes sugar levels to rise in the blood, which can have serious consequences for health such as heart and kidney pathologies. Therefore, many diabetic patients, in addition to introducing changes in the diet, need to take drugs to control these levels and prevent the disease from progressing.

Leflunomide reversed insulin resistance

In both mouse models with diabetes, administration of leflunomide kept blood glucose at normal levels, and it also got the cells to respond to insulin again. The researchers discovered that leflunomide targets a protein involved in the desensitization of insulin receptor, which ensures that the cells begin to absorb sugar from the bloodstream.

Professor Xiulong Xu, one of the authors of the work, explained that it is possible that leflunomide is able to control blood sugar thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, but that this drug also acts on other molecular targets in the body, so it is necessary to carry out more studies to confirm that the antidiabetic effect observed is due solely to its action on the insulin receptor, and that it is also effective in the case of people with diabetes.

Pharmacology - DRUGS FOR DIABETES (MADE EASY) (September 2019).