SGLT2 inhibitors - an insulin-independent therapeutic approach for treatment of type 2 diabetes: focus on canagliflozin

Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2015 Nov 9:8:543-54. doi: 10.2147/DMSO.S90662. eCollection 2015.


Despite the availability of a great variety of medications, a significant proportion of people with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are not able to achieve or maintain adequate glycemic control. Beyond improved glucose control, novel treatments would ideally provide a reduction of cardiovascular risk, with a favorable impact on excess weight, and a low intrinsic hypoglycemia risk, as well as a synergistic mechanism of action for broad combination therapy. With the development of sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, an antidiabetic pharmacologic option has recently become available that comes close to meeting these requirements. For the first time, SGLT2 inhibitors offer a therapeutic approach acting directly on the kidneys without requiring insulin secretion or action. Canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin are the SGLT2 inhibitors approved to date. Taken once a day, these medications can be combined with all other antidiabetic medications including insulin, due to their insulin-independent mechanism of action, with only a minimal risk of hypoglycemia. SGLT2 inhibitors provide additional reductions in body weight and blood pressure due to the therapeutically induced excretion of glucose and sodium through the kidneys. These "concomitant effects" are particularly interesting with regard to the increased cardiovascular risk in T2DM. In many cases, T2DM treatment requires a multidimensional approach where the treatment goals have to be adapted to the individual patient. While there is a consensus on the use of metformin as a first-line drug therapy, various antidiabetics are used for treatment intensification. New mechanisms of action like that of SGLT2 inhibitors such as canagliflozin, which can be used both in early and late stages of diabetes, are a welcome addition to expand the treatment options for patients at every stage of T2DM. The efficacy and tolerability of canagliflozin have been tested in an extensive clinical trial program described in this review article.

Keywords: canagliflozin; dapagliflozin; empagliflozin; sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review