Monday, June 11, 2007

Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug May Help Treat Type 2 Diabetes

A recent Swiss study has found that long-term glucose levels dropped significantly after 13 weeks of treatment with a drug designed to treat juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The study found that daily injections of Anakinra led to a drop in long-term levels of glucose in the blood, while they increased in people given a placebo. To assess whether or not this could have an effect on people with type 2 diabetes, the researchers randomly assigned 36 people to receive a once-daily placebo injection and 34 people to receive once-daily injections of 100 milligrams of anakinra for 13 weeks. The study was published in the April 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Sometimes, beta cells -- insulin-producing cells -- in the pancreas are destroyed in type 2 diabetes as they are in type 1 diabetes. Through previous research, the study’s authors learned that a substance called interleukin-1 beta was a factor in the demise of these cells in people with type 2 diabetes. The drug Anakinra is an interleukin-1-receptor antagonist, which means it can block the action of interleukin-1 beta. "Our study is proof of concept for a mechanism underlying the disease and (may possibly) block its progression," said Dr. Marc Donath, one of the study’s authors, who added, "Interleukin-1 beta may be involved in other complications of the disease, such as arteriosclerosis. Therefore, this therapy may also prevent cardiovascular events. However, this remains to be shown."

Anakinra was well tolerated by the study participants, and Donath and his colleagues plan on conducting larger, follow-up studies of the medication. "This study points to inflammation as definitely having a role in the (diabetes) story," said Dr. Stuart Weiss, an endocrinologist at New York University Medical Center, and a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. But, Weiss said that while this avenue of research is "worth pursuing, I wouldn't get my hopes up for a clinical application, especially since the drug appears to lose its effectiveness over time." Additionally, Weiss pointed out that it appeared the drug was more effective in thinner people. "The authors don't really discuss this, but it's an interesting finding -- it's not what we'd expect."

For more information about diabetes and services for diabetics, please visit American Diabetes Services.

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