Researchers appear to be on the road to a new and possibly better treatment for type 2 diabetes.
Doctors typically treat type 2 diabetics with oral medications to control blood sugar. They'll sometimes also use insulin if the condition worsens. These medications are effective, but they also carry increased risk for low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, particularly as people age. This study, published in this month's Diabetes Care, shows older people with type 2 diabetes who received a continuous infusion of a gut hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1, had significantly fewer of these complications than those who remained on standard oral medications.
The study involved 16 patients. Eight remained on usual care and eight discontinued their usual oral medications and received a continuous infusion of GLP-1 via an infusion pump for 12 weeks. Although blood sugar levels and body weight were maintained equally well in both groups, the investigators noted 87 episodes of hypoglycemia in the usual care group compared to just one in the GLP-1 group.
Researchers believe these results show promise for treatment, but note further study is needed to make the therapy practical on a larger scale. They write, "Our study was designed to test the potential of GLP-1 treatment in elderly individuals using continuous subcutaneous administration. However, long-term administration of GLP-1 by subcutaneous infusion using currently available pumps is impractical for many patients. To allow this therapy to have broader clinical utility, newer delivery systems ... need to be developed."