Drugs used to treat high blood pressure have been found to also help slow the progress of kidney failure. Three separate drug trials reveal that the angiotensin-II-receptor blockers, which include losartan and irbesartan, can be used to treat kidney failure, one of the commonest complications in diabetes.
In the first trial, carried out by doctors in Boston, USA, 1500 patients with type 2 diabetes and kidney disease were given either losartan or placebo. After three years of follow up, the losartan group had a 28 per cent lower risk of end-stage kidney disease. This is equivalent to delaying the need for dialysis or transplantation by two years.
The second trial involved researchers in Chicago who found that the progression of kidney disease or death was reduced by around 20 per cent in patients on irbesartan. Even those with advanced disease could benefit, although the treatment is best started early on. A final study of irbesartan on diabetic patients with early signs of kidney disease showed the condition was less likely to progress than in similar patients on placebo. The trials offer new hope to people with diabetes, for there has been no treatment for kidney complications till now. They also underline the need for the earliest possible diagnosis of kidney disease in people with diabetes.