March 2, 2011 -- New results from a large government-run trial confirm that very aggressive treatment to lower blood sugar is associated with an increased risk of death in people with type 2 at high risk for heart attack and stroke.
The five-year follow-up from the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) study confirms findings that ended the trial’s aggressive blood sugar control arm due to safety concerns.
In February 2008, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) announced that the intensive blood sugar lowering arm of the study would be halted 18 months early after investigators reported an increase in deaths among patients in the aggressive treatment group.
Various diabetes drugs were used to lower blood sugar in the trial. The higher death rate in the tight control arm was not blamed on any single treatment.
Last fall, the FDA announced tight restrictions on GlaxoSmithKline’s diabetes drug Avandia (rosiglitazone), citing an elevated risk of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths among users.
ACCORD investigator William T. Friedewald, MD, of Columbia University, tells WebMD that even though Avandia was a treatment option in the study, there is no evidence that it was responsible for the increase in heart-related deaths.
“As you can imagine, we looked at this very carefully, but there was nothing that suggested any increase in mortality or any other end point that was specific to this drug,” he says.
In fact, the analysis failed to identify any single diabetes drug or drug combination that explained the excess in deaths among the most aggressively treated patients.
American Diabetes Association Chief Science and Medical Officer David M. Kendall, MD, who was a study investigator, says an analysis of the data suggests patients who failed to respond to very aggressive treatment had the greatest risk of dying.
“What we don’t know is if they were at higher risk because of the intensive treatment or if there was something else that made them harder to treat,” Kendall says.