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Two Drugs May Be Better Than One for Type 2 Diabetes

WebMD Health News

April 4, 2000 (Cleveland) -- When it comes to controlling type 2 diabetes, two drugs may be better than one, according to the authors of a new study in the April 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. For the first time, research has shown that combining Glucophage and Avandia is safe and controls blood sugar better than taking just one medication.

Glucophage (metformin) and Avandia (rosiglitazone) work together to combat the body's resistance to insulin in people with type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone the body's cells need to convert blood sugar, or glucose, into energy. In type 2 diabetes, the cells do not respond to insulin and the blood sugar builds up to dangerously high levels.

"Good diabetic control [is important] to prevent complications" such as blindness, heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure, says study co-author Vivian Fonseca, MD. Blood sugar control also can improve how people with diabetes feel. Patients should know that additional treatments are available, especially for those who can't control their diabetes with a single drug, she tells WebMD.

For this study, Fonseca and fellow researchers studied nearly 350 adults with type 2 diabetes aged 40 to 80 years old. Their diabetes was significantly out of control, with average fasting blood sugars of 216 mg/dL. The study was supported by SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures Avandia.

The researchers found that combination therapy including both Glucophage and Avandia was significantly better at lowering blood sugar than Glucophage alone.

According to Fonseca, several combination therapies are now available for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. But the benefit of using both Glucophage and Avandia is that low blood sugar, which can be a side effect of diabetes medications, is not a problem, she says. Fonseca is a professor of medicine at Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans.

The researchers note that people with kidney and liver disease should not use these two drugs. Glucophage can cause dangerous increases in acid levels in the body in people with kidney failure. And Avandia is a cousin of the diabetes drug Rezulin (troglitazone), which was removed from the market just two weeks ago due to its association with liver problems. Avandia also may cause liver damage, although it is believed to be safer than Rezulin.

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