A drug that lowers blood pressure among diabetics may provide a significant means to save tens of thousands of lives, say UK scientists.
A five-year study conducted by them has shown that using Coversyl Plus—a combination of medication like ACE inhibitor and diuretic drugs, which are currently offered only to patients with high blood pressure—reduces the risk of death from heart-related problems and kidney failure by 18 per cent.
The researchers say that all patients, whether with normal blood pressure or with high blood pressure and cholesterol, benefited from Coversyl Plus during the study.
According to them, heart disease is the major cause of death in diabetes, and that one death could be avoided for every 80 diabetics treated with the drug for five years.
"The results should have major implications for guidelines, clinical care and public policies. They represent an important step forward in health care for the millions of people with diabetes worldwide," the Daily Mail quoted Professor Stephen MacMahon, co-principal researcher at The George Institute for International Health in Sydney, as saying.
"This treatment reduced the likelihood of dying from the complications of diabetes by almost one-fifth, with virtually no side-effects," he added.
More than 11,000 diabetics aged 55 and over from 20 countries, including the UK, took part in the study reported online in The Lancet medical journal.
Patients who received treatment with Coversyl Plus during the study had had their systolic blood pressure reading fall on average from 140mm to 135mm, while it remained unchanged in the placebo group. The risk of cardiovascular death dropped by 18 per cent among treated patients, with the overall death rate falling by 14 per cent compared to the placebo group. There was a 14 per cent drop in heart attacks, and a reduction of 21 per cent in kidney failure.
"This study is genuinely exciting because it provides a rationale for considering such treatment routinely for patients with type 2 diabetes," said Dr George Kassianos, a British GP and fellow of the European Society of Cardiology.
"It can save lives and reduce cardiovascular complications, regardless of whether patients have hypertension to start with or not - which has never been proven before," he added.
The study was carried out by an international group of independent medical researchers with support from Servier, which makes the drug.