US Pharm. 2015;40(5):HS-32-HS-33.

In a pilot study that included children at high risk for type 1 diabetes, daily high-dose oral insulin, compared with placebo, resulted in an immune response to insulin without hypoglycemia. These results support the need for a phase 3 trial to determine whether oral insulin can prevent islet autoimmunity and diabetes in high-risk children, according to a study in the April 21 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on child health.

Frequently, a few specific proteins trigger immune responses that cause autoimmune diseases. This has led to the experimental use of antigen--specific therapies (using a substance to initiate an immune response) to prevent, stabilize, or reverse immune-related diseases, such as allergies and multiple sclerosis. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that can be detected in asymptomatic individuals by the presence of islet autoantibodies that develop in children. Antigen-specific therapy using insulin before the development of autoantibodies may induce protective immune responses that prevent the emergence of autoimmunity and subsequent type 1 diabetes in genetically at-risk children, according to background information in the article.

Ezio Bonifacio, PhD, of the DFG Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, and colleagues randomly assigned autoantibody-negative, genetically at-risk children to receive oral insulin at varying doses (n = 15) or placebo (n = 10) once daily for 3 to 18 months to assess whether oral insulin can induce a potentially protective immune response without causing adverse effects. The Pre-POINT study was conducted between 2009 and 2013 in Germany, Austria, the U.S., and the United Kingdom and enrolled children aged 2 to 7 years with a family history of type 1 diabetes.

Immune responses to insulin were observed in 2 of 10 (20%) placebo-treated children, in 1 of 6 (16.7%) children treated with 2.5 mg of insulin, 1 of 6 (16.7%) treated with 7.5 mg, 2 of 6 (33.3%) treated with 22.5 mg, and 5 of 6 (83.3%) treated with 67.5 mg of insulin.

The incidence and type of adverse events did not differ between children who received placebo and children who received oral insulin, regardless of the insulin dose. Hypoglycemia was not observed at any of the tested doses.