Metabolic drugs top the list of prescription drug expenses for elderly Medicare beneficiaries

February 01, 2016

Joslin Investigator Steven Shoelson, M.D., Ph.D., whose research sparked the clinical trials, notes that salsalate has a long and offbeat history as potential diabetes drug. "This research started with a finding made more than 140 years ago that seemed to have been forgotten about," says Shoelson, who is head of Joslin's Section on Pathophysiology and Molecular Phamacology as well as a Professor at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Shoelson studies inflammation processes in the body, which are closely linked to insulin resistance and diabetes. Back in the 1990s, he tracked down a report by a 19th-century German doctor suggesting that a chemical with anti-inflammatory properties called sodium salicylate might aid in treating diabetes. Like aspirin, sodium salicylate in high doses irritates the stomach. But salsalate, a near relative, is not so rough. Studying the drug in animal models of diabetes, Dr. Shoelson's lab found that it appeared to work very well.

Salsalate also is a well-accepted drug, prescribed for joint pain for decades. "Phamaceutical companies were interested in the idea of an anti-inflammatory drug for diabetes, but not in this compound, because no one can own it," he remarks. "So we went for funding to the federal government, which has been interested in a safe, effective and inexpensive new drug for diabetes."

Source: Joslin Diabetes Center