Sodium glucose transporter protein 2 inhibitors: focusing on the kidney to treat type 2 diabetes

Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Oct;5(5):124-36. doi: 10.1177/2042018814553965.


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is increasing worldwide. Treatment of T2DM continues to present challenges, with a significant proportion of patients failing to achieve and maintain glycemic targets. Despite the availability of many oral antidiabetic agents, therapeutic efficacy is also offset by side effects such as weight gain and hypoglycemia. Therefore, the search for novel therapeutic agents with an improved benefit-risk profile continues. In the following review we focus on a novel class of oral antidiabetic drugs, the sodium glucose transporter protein 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, which have unique characteristics. SGLT2 inhibitors focus on the kidney as a therapeutic target, where they inhibit the reabsorption of glucose in the proximal tubule, causing an increase in urinary glucose excretion. Doing this, they reduce plasma glucose independently of the β-cell function of the pancreas. SGLT2 inhibitors are effective at lowering hemoglobin A1c, but also induce weight loss and reduce blood pressure, with a low risk of hypoglycemia. In general, the SGLT2 inhibitors are well tolerated, with the most frequent adverse events being mild urinal and genital infections. Since their primary site of effect is the kidney, these drugs are less effective in patients with impaired kidney function but evidence is emerging that these drugs may also have a protective effect against diabetic nephropathy. This review focuses on the most extensively studied SGLT2 inhibitors dapagliflozin, canagliflozin and empagliflozin. Dapagliflozin and canagliflozin have already been approved for marketing by the US Food and Drug Administration. The European Medicines Agency has accepted all three drugs for marketing.

Keywords: canagliflozin; dapagliflozin; empagliflozin; sodium glucose transporter protein 2 inhibitors; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review