Much-hyped renal denervation devices could help diabetics, too

Renal denervation devices, designed to treat hypertension, are already tabbed for big sales in that sphere--$2.8 billion by 2020, analysts say. Now, new research suggests the nerve-deadening procedure could benefit diabetics, an even larger patient population.

As MedPage Today reports, scientists at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes meeting in Berlin said renal denervation has shown promise to improve insulin and glucose levels in diabetics in small, early trials. The treatment also reduced levels in C-peptide, a marker of beta-cell function, according to Felix Mahfoud of Saarland University in Germany.

At the moment, devices like Medtronic's ($MDT) Symplicity and St. Jude Medical's ($STJ) EnligHTN are indicated solely for drug-resistant hypertension, but their warm reception among European cardiologists suggests they'll eventually be approved for other varieties of the ailment. The data presented by Mahfoud and his colleagues is certainly early-stage, but the prospect of an indication for diabetes treatment could swell the already sky-high market for renal denervation.

However, the treatment's novelty means it lacks a great deal of post-market safety and efficacy data, and some clinicians are wary of diving in without more investigation, MedPage Today reports. Rudolf Bilous, of James Cook University in Australia, told the website that the lack of information on renal denervation's long-term effects will likely dissuade renal experts from going off-label any time soon.

"For the hesitant diabetologist who deals with progressive renal disease, we urge that we get more prospective data on kidney function," Bilous said. "We need to be certain that we don't have unintended consequences in blocking the sympathetic nerves in nephropathy, which we see often in diabetes."

- here's MedPage Today's story

Special Report: Renal Denervation - The Next Big Thing in Medical Devices