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Drug to stop diabetes

New Delhi, Sept. 15: A drug called rosiglitazone combined with lifestyle changes may help people who are at high risk of developing diabetes reduce their chances of getting the disease, a global medical team reported today.

While rosiglitazone has been used for several years to treat patients with diabetes, the new findings show for the first time that this drug may also help in preventing diabetes in people who are at high risk, the investigators said.

“The addition of rosiglitazone was more effective in preventing diabetes than conventional prevention strategies such as exercise and diet,” Dr Vishwanathan Mohan, chairman of the Diabetes Specialities Centre in Chennai, said.

The Chennai centre was among 191 sites across 21 nations that recruited patients for the study. “The addition of rosiglitazone to basic lifestyle recommendations substantially reduces the risk of developing diabetes by about two-thirds, offering a novel preventive approach,” the investigators said in a paper published today by the journal Lancet.

India has more than 25 million diabetes patients and doctors estimate the number could become over 100 million within five years.

People with impaired fasting glucose and impaired glucose tolerance are at high risk of developing adult-onset or type-2 diabetes. “One-third of the people with impaired glucose tolerance are likely to develop diabetes within five years,” Mohan said.

In the study, doctors divided 5,269 adults into two groups — one group received rosiglitazone and the other received a placebo daily — for three years.

Among Indian patients, 330 received the drug, and 332 received placebo. Doctors emphasised the need for diet, weight reduction and exercise.

After three years, 280 people on the drug and 658 on placebo had developed diabetes.

The study found that rosiglitazone at 8 mg a day for three years can reduce the chance of developing diabetes and increase the likelihood of regression to normal blood sugar levels in adults with impaired glucose tolerance.

“Changes in lifestyle through diet and exercise will still remain the first method,” Mohan said. “But if this strategy does not work, rosiglitazone can be considered,” he said.

Type-2 diabetes strikes in adulthood, particularly those with poor eating habits, a family history and sedentary lifestyles. The onset is preceded by impaired glucose tolerance that can be detected through blood tests years in advance.

The study also suggested there was a risk of non-fatal heart failure in the drug group when compared to the placebo group.

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