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Drug 'Avandia' May Prevent Diabetes

Study Shows Drug Cut Diabetes Risk by 60%

Millions at Risk continued...

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 of Medicine.

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 Lancet.

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 WebMD sponsor.

Avandia: Not All Good News

Not all the news from the Avandia trial was good, however. Fourteen of the people treated with the drug developed heart failure (0.5%), compared with just two people (0.1%) in the placebo arm of the study.

"Balancing both benefits and risks suggests that for every 1,000 people treated with [Avandia] for three years, about 144 cases of diabeteswill be prevented, with an excess of four to five cases of congestive heart failure," the researchers wrote in The Lancet.

American Diabetes Association president Larry C. Deeb, MD, tells WebMD that the finding means that the drug is not appropriate for all people at high risk for diabetes.

"This probably isn't the drug to use in patients who have multiple risk factors for heart failure, and anyone with any risk factors should be monitored closely while they are on it," he says.

Deeb points out that the reduction in diabetes risk reported by Gerstein and colleagues is almost identical to that seen with modest changes in lifestyle in a major, U.S. government-funded prevention trial.

People who took part in the Diabetes Prevention Program trial were asked to eat less fat and fewer calories and to exercise for 30 minutes a day five days a week. These lifestyle changes resulted in a 58% reduction in risk for getting type 2 diabetes.

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