Pharmacology of dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors: Similarities and differences

Roberta Baetta, Alberto Corsini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The dipeptidyl peptidase (DPP)-4 inhibitors, which enhance glucose-dependent insulin secretion from pancreatic β cells by preventing DPP-4-mediated degradation of endogenously released incretin hormones, represent a new therapeutic approach to the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The 'first-in-class' DPP-4 inhibitor, sitagliptin, was approved in 2006; it was followed by vildagliptin (available in the EU and many other countries since 2007, although approval in the US is still pending), saxagliptin (in 2009), alogliptin (in 2010, presently only in Japan) and linagliptin, which was approved in the US in May 2011 and is undergoing regulatory review in Japan and the EU. As the number of DPP-4 inhibitors on the market increases, potential differences among the different members of the class become important when deciding which agent is best suited for an individual patient. The aim of this review is to provide a comprehensive and updated comparison of the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties of DPP-4 inhibitors, and to pinpoint pharmacological differences of potential interest for their use in therapy.Despite their common mechanism of action, these agents show significant structural heterogeneity that could translate into different pharmacological properties. At the pharmacokinetic level, DPP-4 inhibitors have important differences, including half-life, systemic exposure, bioavailability, protein binding, metabolism, presence of active metabolites and excretion routes. These differences could be relevant, especially in patients with renal or hepatic impairment, and when considering combination therapy. At the pharmacodynamic level, the data available so far indicate a similar glucose-lowering efficacy of DPP-4 inhibitors, either as monotherapy or in combination with other hypoglycaemic drugs, a similar weight-neutral effect, and a comparable safety and tolerability profile. Data on nonglycaemic parameters are scant at present and do not allow a comparison among DPP-4 inhibitors. Several phase III trials of DPP-4 inhibitors are currently ongoing; these trials, along with post-marketing surveillance data, will hopefully increase our knowledge about the long-term efficacy and safety of DPP-4 inhibitor therapy, the effect on pancreatic cell function and peripheral glucose metabolism, and the effect on cardiovascular outcomes in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1441-1467
Number of pages27
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Alogliptin
  • Alpha-glucosidase-inhibitors
  • Drug-interactions
  • Exenatide
  • Linagliptin
  • Liraglutide
  • Metformin
  • Saxagliptin
  • Sitagliptin
  • Sulfonylureas
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Vildagliptin.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)

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