Study: Older Diabetes Drugs as Safe, Cheaper Than New Treatments
Older, less-expensive diabetes drugs are equally as effective and safe as newer, costlier drugs, according to a study published online Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports.
For the first in-depth comparison of oral diabetes drugs that have been released in the past decade and those that have been available for decades, researchers led by Shari Bolen of Johns Hopkins University reviewed more than 200 published studies and unpublished information from drug companies and FDA.
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 other medications and does not cause weight gain or dangerously low blood sugar levels. Metformin also lowers LDL, or "bad," cholesterol levels.
Consumer Reports published a guide to the results, which rated metformin, as well as glipizide and glimepiride -- sold respectively as Glucotrol and Amaryl -- as "best bets," the AP/Chronicle reports.
The study found that most oral diabetes medications reduce A1c levels, an important measure of high blood sugar, by about one percentage point.
Bolen said that despite intense marketing for newer drugs -- which can cost up to $262 per month -- researchers "didn't find any benefit" to taking 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 GlaxoSmithKline diabetes drug Avandia to cardiovascular risks. The Hopkins researchers said that evidence is insufficient to address the Avandia issue (Marchione, AP/Houston Chronicle, 7/17).
ABC's "World News" on Monday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Gail Shearer, director of health policy analysis at Consumers Union; Sidney Wolfe, director of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen; and Alan Goldhammer, a vice president of regulatory affairs at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America(Stark, "World News," ABC, 7/16). A video excerpt of the segment is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.