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Drug 'Avandia' May Prevent Diabetes

Study Shows Drug Cut Diabetes Risk by 60%
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 15, 2006 -- A widely prescribed drug used to treat type 2 diabetes is also highly effective for preventing the disease, researchers reported today at a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark.

People at high risk for diabetes who took the drug Avandia reduced their risk of developing the disease by 60% in the three-year trial conducted in 21 countries.

The risk reduction was double that reported with any other drug used for diabetes prevention, and on par with reductions that have been reported in studies examining lifestyle changes alone.

The potentially landmark findings could usher in a new era of diabetes management similar to that already seen with heart disease, where drug therapies prescribed to prevent the disease become as important as those used to treat it, experts said.

"If we can prevent diabetes, we may also be able to prevent the serious cardiovascular, eye, kidney, and other health consequences of diabetes," researcher Hertzel Gerstein, MD, tells WebMD

Millions at Risk

About 20 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, and millions more are considered to be at high risk for developing the disease. As many as 40% of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 40 and 74 -- or 41 million people -- have prediabetes, according to government estimates, meaning that their ability to process blood sugars, or glucose, is compromised.

The newly reported trial was designed to find out if treatment with Avandia substantially reduced the chances of developing diabetes.

It included 5,269 people treated at 191 clinics around the world. The average age of the study participants was 55 and all had evidence of prediabetes with either impaired fasting glucose (blood sugar) or impaired glucose tolerance. Having prediabetes puts you at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Roughly half were treated with 8 milligrams of Avandia daily and half received placebo. Both groups were also given advice on how to lower their diabetes risk with diet and exercise, but study participants were not required to make lifestyle changes.

After an average three years of treatment, 306 people taking Avandia had developed diabetes or died from any cause; that compares with 686 of the placebo-treated participants. And treatment with the diabetes drug was found to increase the likelihood that participants would revert from prediabetes to a normal blood sugar status by 70% to 80% compared with placebo.

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