Drug 'Avandia' May Prevent Diabetes
Study Shows Drug Cut Diabetes Risk by 60%
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
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
"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
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.
In a related trial involving the same patient population, the blood pressure
drug Altace was not found to be effective for the prevention of diabetes. But
43% of the people who took the drug reverted to normal glucose levels by the
end of the study, compared with 38% of placebo-treated participants. These
results will be published in the upcoming issue of The New England Journal
Gerstein presented findings from both the trials in Copenhagen at the 42nd
annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. The
diabetes drug findings were also published in the Sept. 15 issue of the journal
The study was funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, in
conjunction with the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which markets
Avandia, and King Pharmaceuticals, which markets Altace. GlaxoSmithKline is a