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Tuesday, 11 September, 2001, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Drug to prevent diabetes
Diabetes is becoming increasingly common
A drug designed to delay or help prevent high-risk patients from developing type 2 diabetes has produced promising results in trials.

The drug, rosiglitazone, is marketed by UK pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline Plc under the brand name Avandia.

Dr Mark Walker, of Newcastle University, told the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Conference in Glasgow that it had proved effective in preventing the disease in patients with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT).

Preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes may become crucial in trying to tackle the impending epidemic that we face

Diabetes UK
Patients with IGT have higher than normal blood glucose levels, which puts them at increased risk of diabetes.

Diabetes is caused by the body's inability to process sugar in the blood.

The breakdown of sugar is controlled by the hormone insulin.

Diabetics either do not produce enough insulin, or are resistant to its effects.

IGT also contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease.

Increased exercise and diet can also help prevent people with IGT from developing diabetes but for elderly and disabled patients it may not be an option.

Dr Walker said: "The results from this small study are extremely encouraging as they demonstrate that rosiglitazone provides significant improvements to insulin resistance, blood pressure and IGT.

"This drug therefore presents a therapeutic alternative for those patients that cannot make the necessary lifestyle changes."

Side effects

GlaxoSmithKline added a warning to labels on Avandia in February after clinical trails showed a higher rate of heart failure and cardiac-related problems in people taking the drug with insulin.

Another drug in the same class, Rezulin, was pulled from the US market after it linked to liver problems.

Dr Walker's team studied the effects of rosiglitazone on 18 IGT patients who received either the drug or a placebo.

Patients who took the drug showed an improvement in their glucose and insulin levels.

Dr Walker said: "A key consideration from the study results is that rosiglitazone appears to ameliorate insulin resistance in the pre-diabetic state.

"This could be of potential benefit in actually preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes."

Diabetes is linked to a range of other conditions including kidney failure, strokes, heart disease, blindness and nerve damage.

Bill Hartnet, of Diabetes UK, told BBC News Online: "These results are interesting, but we would be hesitant about getting too excited at this early stage.

"Increasingly the possibility of preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes may become crucial in trying to tackle the impending epidemic that we face."

See also:

27 Aug 01 | Health
Insulin pill hope for diabetics
27 Jun 01 | Health
Hopes for diabetes cure
17 Jun 01 | Health
'An end to insulin jabs'
10 Jun 01 | Health
Diabetes deaths 'unnecessary'
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