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New Type 2 Diabetes Treatment Options

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Type 2 Diabetes Treatment: New Medications continued...

Despite the advances, Kalyani points out that many people with diabetes have probably not changed their prescriptions much over the last decade. "In some ways, there's been a lot of consistency," says Kalyani. "Metformin and the sulfonylureas [such as Amaryl, DiaBeta, Diabenese, Glucotrol, Glynase, and Micronase] and metformin are still the most commonly prescribed drugs for diabetes and they've been around for a long time."

While the new drugs may not have replaced the old, they have added options for people who had problems controlling blood sugar with standard drugs.

Problems with older drugs also emerged in recent years. In 2010, the FDA severely restricted the use of Avandia. Studies showed that it was linked with cardiovascular risks. In 2011, the FDA added a new warning to Actos, a drug from the same class, because it may increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Type 2 Diabetes Treatment: Glucose Monitoring and Insulin Pumps

Experts say that there have been great strides in glucose monitoring and insulin pumps. Continuous glucose monitors work with a tiny sensor that a doctor implants in the skin. The sensor sends data about current glucose levels to a wireless device that looks like a pager. The sensors need to be replaced every three to seven days.

"Once, people had to urinate on a strip of paper to get even a rough idea of their glucose levels," says Cypess. "Now, they can get a precise update every few minutes with a continuous glucose monitor. It's amazing."

For people with type 2 diabetes who need injected insulin, insulin pumps are now more refined.  The devices give smaller and more precise doses, says Kalyani.

Many companies are working on technology that will fully automate the interaction between a continuous glucose monitor and a pump. You would not have to press the button on your pump when your monitor alerts you. Instead, the monitor would trigger the pump to give the insulin dose directly.  The two would operate without your input -- creating what many experts call an "artificial pancreas."

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