Insulin shown to benefit newly diagnosed diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center say insulin should not be a last resort for diabetes treatment. To help abolish myths about insulin, diabetics should be encouraged by physicians that insulin is a safe and effective way to control weight gain, episodes of low blood sugar and prevent early death from diabetes complications.

Early initiation of insulin injections to treat diabetes was shown to result in few side effects and patient satisfaction among study participants. Dr. Ildiko Lingvay, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study says, "We found that those patients who received insulin initially did just as well, if not better, than those who didn't receive insulin. This reinforces the idea that insulin treatment is a viable and safe option for patients, even in the very initial stages of their diagnoses.”

Dr. Lingvay says it is up to physicians to dispel myths that insulin is a last resort for diabetes treatment. "There is a myth out in the community, especially among certain ethnicities, that insulin is the last resort, and that somebody started on insulin is going to die. We as physicians are responsible for teaching the patient that that's not the case."


For the study researchers evaluated newly diagnosed diabetics, age 21 to 70 years old, started on insulin, combined with the oral diabetes drug metformin. A second group was given standard therapy that included triple therapy oral diabetes drugs. The goal was to measure compliance, satisfaction, effectiveness, safety and quality of life among the study group.

Fifty eight patients were followed for three years - monthly for the first four months, at six months after, and every three months. Twenty four patients taking insulin finished the study, and 21 taking oral diabetes drugs also remained in the study.

The study found that patients taking insulin in addition to metformin experienced fewer episodes of low-blood-sugar, experienced less weight gain, and reported high satisfaction with insulin use.

The message to physicians and patients is that insulin should be considered a front line treatment for newly diagnosed diabetics. The study authors say physicians should work with patients to dispel myths that taking insulin leads to declines in quality of life. Dr. Lingvay says, "With the new devices that we're using, giving yourself insulin shot is not much harder than taking pills."

UT Southwestern Medical Center