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GlaxoSmithKline’s Once-Weekly GLP-1 Agonist Tanzeum (albiglutide) approved in US and Europe

On April 15, the FDA approved GlaxoSmithKline’s once-weekly GLP-1 agonist Tanzeum (albiglutide) for type 2 diabetes, which makes it the second once-weekly GLP-1 agonist approved in the US after AstraZeneca’s Bydureon. This follows the approval of the same drug in Europe (marketed under the different brand name Eperzan) on March 30, 2014. The launch in both the US and Europe is slated for this September. GLP-1 agonists work by stimulating the production of insulin when blood sugar levels become too high; these drugs are often associated with better glucose control, the potential for weight loss, and little increased risk of hypoglycemia (learn more about the drug class here). Although this newly approved GLP-1 agonist has been shown in trials to be slightly less effective than once-daily Victoza (liraglutide), once-weekly Tanzeum has other key benefits that we think will prompt heaps of interest. First, it is associated with less nausea and vomiting than other GLP-1 agonists, which should make it much easier for patients to start and hopefully stay on this therapy. The drug will also be available in a pen injection device that includes a “three-click” process. This will be similar to the recently-approved Bydureon dual-chambered pen that eliminates the need for patients to manually mix the drug before injection (“reconstitution”). While neither is quite as easy as a Lantus pen, they both have improvements from the first-generation GLP-1. We look forward to learning more about the launch and on preparing a test drive showing how the pen will work. –NL

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