Treatment effect heterogeneity following type 2 diabetes treatment with GLP1-receptor agonists and SGLT2-inhibitors: a systematic review

Commun Med (Lond). 2023 Oct 5;3(1):131. doi: 10.1038/s43856-023-00359-w.


Background: A precision medicine approach in type 2 diabetes requires the identification of clinical and biological features that are reproducibly associated with differences in clinical outcomes with specific anti-hyperglycaemic therapies. Robust evidence of such treatment effect heterogeneity could support more individualized clinical decisions on optimal type 2 diabetes therapy.

Methods: We performed a pre-registered systematic review of meta-analysis studies, randomized control trials, and observational studies evaluating clinical and biological features associated with heterogenous treatment effects for SGLT2-inhibitor and GLP1-receptor agonist therapies, considering glycaemic, cardiovascular, and renal outcomes. After screening 5,686 studies, we included 101 studies of SGLT2-inhibitors and 75 studies of GLP1-receptor agonists in the final systematic review.

Results: Here we show that the majority of included papers have methodological limitations precluding robust assessment of treatment effect heterogeneity. For SGLT2-inhibitors, multiple observational studies suggest lower renal function as a predictor of lesser glycaemic response, while markers of reduced insulin secretion predict lesser glycaemic response with GLP1-receptor agonists. For both therapies, multiple post-hoc analyses of randomized control trials (including trial meta-analysis) identify minimal clinically relevant treatment effect heterogeneity for cardiovascular and renal outcomes.

Conclusions: Current evidence on treatment effect heterogeneity for SGLT2-inhibitor and GLP1-receptor agonist therapies is limited, likely reflecting the methodological limitations of published studies. Robust and appropriately powered studies are required to understand type 2 diabetes treatment effect heterogeneity and evaluate the potential for precision medicine to inform future clinical care.

Plain language summary

This study reviews the available evidence on which patient features (such as age, sex, and blood test results) are associated with different outcomes for two recently introduced type 2 diabetes medications: SGLT2-inhibitors and GLP1-receptor agonists. Understanding what individual characteristics are associated with different response patterns may help clinical providers and people living with diabetes make more informed decisions about which type 2 diabetes treatments will work best for an individual. We focus on three outcomes: blood glucose levels (raised blood glucose is the primary symptom of diabetes and a primary aim of diabetes treatment is to lower this), heart disease, and kidney disease. We identified some potential factors that reduce effects on blood glucose levels, including poorer kidney function for SGLT2-inhibitors and lower production of the glucose-lowering hormone insulin for GLP1-receptor agonists. We did not identify clear factors that alter heart and kidney disease outcomes for either medication. Most of the studies had limitations, meaning more research is needed to fully understand the factors that influence treatment outcomes in type 2 diabetes.