Repaglinide: A New Oral Antidiabetic Agent

By William T. Elliott, MD, and James Chan, PharmD, PhD

Danish drug giant novo nordisk has introduced its new oral antidiabetic agent, repaglinide (Prandin) to the U.S. market. Approved in December by the FDA, repaglinide is the newest drug available for the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Repaglinide acts by stimulating insulin release from beta-cells in the pancreas like sulfonylureas; however, the drug represents a new chemical class, the "meglitinides." Repaglinide is different in chemical structure and pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics from currently available antidiabetic drugs, with the primary difference being that the drug is very fast-acting and is quickly eliminated-with the intention that the drug is to be taken with meals. Data from animal studies suggest that repaglinide has different binding characteristics on the beta cells compared to sulfonylureas and is more dependent on the presence of glucose for its action.2,3 Its insulinotropic action appears to involve both distinct and common mechanisms with sulfonylureas.3 Unlike sulfonylureas, repaglinide appears to preserve glucose-stimulated proinsulin biosynthesis in animal pancreatic islet cells.5


Repaglinide is indicated as an adjunct to diet and exercise to lower blood glucose concentration in patients with type 2 diabetes who cannot achieve satisfactory control by diet and exercise alone. It is also indicated for combination therapy with metformin.

Potential Advantages

Repaglinide has a rapid onset of action and a short duration of action. The rapid onset allows the patient to take the drug with meals, and the short duration may reduce the risk and/or severity of hypoglycemia. The preprandial dosing also allows patients to skip a dose if they miss a meal and add a dose if they eat extra meals. Repaglinide has been reported to be synergistic with metformin.1

Potential Disadvantages

While the risk and severity of hypoglycemia with repaglinide may be lower than that of sulfonylurea, hypoglycemia is still the most common side effect. In active control trials, mild or moderate hypoglycemia occurred in 16% of repaglinide-treated patients, compared to 20% of glyburide-treated patents and 19% of glipizide-treated patients.1 Drugs that inhibit cytochrome P450 isoenzyme 3A (e.g., erythromycin, ketoconazole) may inhibit the metabolism of repaglinide. Drugs that induce cytochrome P450 isoenzyme 3A (e.g., troglitazone, rifampin, carbamazepine, barbiturates) may increase repaglinide metabolism.1 Specific drug interaction studies involving these potentially interacting drugs and repaglinide have not been reported.

Dosing Information

Repaglinide as Prandin is supplied in tablets of 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg. For treatment-naive patients whose HbA1c is less than 8%, the starting dose is 0.5 mg with each meal preprandially. For those previously treated and whose HbA1c is 8% or greater, the starting dose is 1 or 2 mg with each meal preprandially. Dosage adjustment should be determined by blood glucose response. The dose should be doubled if response is inadequate. Allow at least one week to assess response before further dose adjustments. The maximum recommended dose is 16 mg daily.1 The dose should be taken within 15 minutes of the meal but may vary from 30 minutes before to immediately preceding the meal.


Repaglinide is an oral hypoglycemic agent that has a rapid onset and short duration of action. Dosing in concert with meals may reduce the potential for hypoglycemia as plasma insulin levels return to baseline before the next meal. In a three-month maintenance placebo-controlled study involving both drug treatment-naive and those previously treated with another antidiabetic agent, repaglinide was shown to reduce HbA1c by 1.7% units, fasting plasma glucose by an average of 61.3 mg/dL, and two-hour postprandial plasma glucose by 104 mg/dL compared to placebo.1 Sulfonylurea-naive patients are more responsive to repaglinide (HbA1c decreased from 9.9% to 7.5%). No comparative trials with other antidiabetic agents have been published. Information provided by the manufacturer suggests that repaglinide is at least as effective as glyburide and more effective than glipizide in maintaining overall glycemic control over one year.1 The combination of metformin and repaglinide has been reported to be more effective than either alone.1 The side effect profile of repaglinide is similar to that of the sulfonylureas but appears to have a lower risk of severe hypoglycemia.1

Clinical Implications

Diabetes has become one of the more common chronic diseases in this country. Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANESIII) indicate that diabetes (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) affects 7.8% of adults and almost 20% (18.8%) of Americans aged 60 or older.4 The authors of NHANES III also suggest that the prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, along with high rates of impaired glucose tolerance detected in the survey, suggest that diabetes will continue to be a major health problem.4

Repaglinide provides another drug for the management of diabetes. This drug allows the patient to time the drug, and the resultant insulin release, with meals and may reduce the risk of hypoglycemia. The drug may be of particular interest for patients who lead lifestyles associated with erratic meals; however, most diabetics are likely to prefer the convenience of a once or twice daily medication.

Other than what has been provided by Novo Nordisk, very little is known about this drug, as none of the clinical trials supporting its FDA approval have been published. It is not known whether repaglinide offers any significant clinical advantages over the sulfonylureas resulting from some apparent difference in their mechanism of action demonstrated in animal studies.

The wholesale cost of repaglinide is $0.57, $0.75, and $0.83 per tablet for the 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg tablets, respectively.


    1. Prandin Product Monograph. December 1997. Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

    2. Fuhlendorff J, et al. Diabetes 1998;47(3):345-351.

    3. Kofod H, et al. Diabetologia 1995;38(suppl): Abstract 753.

    4. Harris MI, et al. Diabetes Care 1998;21:518-524.

    5. Vinambres C, et al. Pharmacol Res 1996;34:83-85.