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Popular BP Medicine May Lower Diabetes Risk

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WebMD Health News

Oct. 16, 2001 -- A popular drug used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease, and recently shown to help prevent strokes and heart attacks, also appears to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. In a large trial first reported last year, researchers found that people at high risk for developing diabetes who take the drug Altace were 34% less likely to develop diabetes than those who did not get the drug.

Those findings have now been confirmed in a detailed analysis, published in the Oct. 17 issue of TheJournal of the American Medical Association. But experts say it is too soon to recommend Altace or any other drug of its type solely for the reduction of diabetes risk.

"This is an exciting finding, which could potentially open up new ways of preventing both diabetes and heart disease," researcher Salim Yusuf, FRCPC, of Ontario's McMaster University tells WebMD. He adds that the standard diabetes drugs "haven't been shown to reduce heart disease convincingly, but we know that this drug does."

Approximately 16 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and more than 90% have a form called type 2 or adult-onset diabetes. Another 10 million Americans are considered to be at high risk for developing it, especially as the U.S. population ages.

People with diabetes are up to four-times more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than the general population. In fact, some form of heart complication such as a heart attack is present in 75% of diabetes-related deaths, but American Diabetes Association spokesman Nathaniel G. Clark, MD, says doctors are only now beginning to understand the importance of preventing these cardiovascular complications in diabetic patients.

As far as treating people with diabetes, Clark tells WebMD: "In the past, we have focused on the need to control blood sugar, which is, of course, important. ... But the reality is that for patients with type 2 diabetes, the most significant complications in terms of the time spent in hospitals and death are ... problems like heart attack and stroke."

Clark says the findings from the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) study are intriguing but not conclusive because the diabetes data were incidental findings. The study's primary focus was to determine if taking Altace, a type of drug called an ACE inhibitor, prevented heart attacks in people at high risk for having one. People at risk for diabetes have similar risk profiles of people at risk of heart disease.

As hoped, significant reductions in deaths from heart attack, strokes, or other cardiovascular diseases were seen among participants taking the ACE inhibitor. But the reduction in diabetes incidence was unexpected, Yusuf says. A total of 3.6% of the participants taking ramipril developed type 2 diabetes, compared to 5.4% of participants given a dummy pill for comparison.

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