Study: Drug May Prevent 1-in-7 Cases of Diabetes

September 2006 - More than 8 percent of the world population is currently suffering from conditions that increase diabetes risk, so about one in 12 people should be taking a drug to prevent diabetes, according to a study by scientists at the Population Health Research Institute in Ontario, Canada.

The study, published in The Lancet, recommends a diabetes drug called rosiglitazone be administered to people with impaired glucose regulation, which would theoretically prevent one in seven cases of diabetes. Currently, doctors are supposed to administer drugs only when diet and lifestyle changes fail to control blood glucose.

The preexisting conditions the researchers referred to -- impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glucose -- greatly increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. The condition is diagnosed when a patient's body no longer produces enough insulin or becomes resistant to it. This causes blood sugar levels to rise, which causes health problems.

The study analyzed 5,269 adults with the two aforementioned conditions after they had been given lifestyle and diet advice, and either rosigilatazone or a placebo for three years. At the study's conclusion, only 280 people developed diabetes, compared to 658 members of the control group.

"For every 1,000 people treated with rosiglitazone for three years, about 144 cases of diabetes will be prevented," the researchers concluded.

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According to the researchers' estimates, the drug's side effects -- including heart failure -- could affect four or five of every 1,000 people treated for three years. However, the researchers said the risks paled when compared to the number of diabetes cases that the drug could prevent when combined with basic lifestyle changes.

Diabetes experts disagreed, noting that offering drugs might lead people to believe they can reduce their risk of diabetes without lifestyle changes.

Health Advocate Mike Adams, author of "How to Halt Diabetes in 25 Days," says the study's conclusions were "absurd."

"People don't like making diet and lifestyle changes, and they are always looking for the 'magic bullet' to cure their conditions," he said. "This drug is one step away from being touted as the magic bullet for type 2 diabetes."

Adams added that there was no such thing as diet and lifestyle changes "failing to control blood and glucose levels," but that most people expect to control their diabetes while eating whatever they want.

"This is not a realistic expectation," Adams said. "Controlling diabetes means not only exercising and eating nutritious foods to maintain a healthy weight, but also completely eliminating -- not moderating -- processed sugars from your diet; especially soft drinks."

Source: Population Health Research Institute