Older, Less-Costly Diabetes Drugs As Effective As Newer Treatments

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Older, Less-Costly Diabetes Drugs

Older, less-expensive diabetes drugs are equally as effective and safeas newer, costlier drugs, according to a study published online Mondayin the Annals of Internal Medicine, the AP/Houston Chroniclereports. For the first in-depth comparison of oral diabetes drugs thathave been released in the past decade and those that have beenavailable for decades, researchers led by Shari Bolen of Johns Hopkins University reviewed more than 200 published studies and unpublished information from drug companies and FDA.

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Metformin -- sold as Glucophage and generically for about $100 per year -- "was the clear winner," according to the AP/Chronicle.The inexpensive drug was found to work just as well as othermedications and does not cause weight gain or dangerously low bloodsugar levels. Metformin also lowers LDL, or "bad," cholesterol levels. Consumer Reportspublished a guide to the results, which rated metformin, as well asglipizide and glimepiride -- sold respectively as Amaryl and Glucotrol-- as "best bets," the AP/Chronicle reports.

Thestudy found that most oral diabetes medications reduce A1c levels, animportant measure of high blood sugar, by about one percentage point.Bolen said that despite intense marketing for newer drugs -- which cancost up to $262 per month -- researchers "didn't find any benefit" totaking them unless a patient was unable to tolerate an older drug.

The study was commissioned in May 2005 by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, before a study released this year tied the GlaxoSmithKlinediabetes drug Avandia to cardiovascular risks. The Hopkins researcherssaid that evidence is insufficient to address the Avandia issue(Marchione, AP/Houston Chronicle, 7/17).
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