New Device May Treat Obesity and Diabetes

Published 02/14 2014 12:23PM

Updated 02/14 2014 12:26PM

More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese and more than 23 million have type 2 diabetes. Now, there’s a treatment that could fight both of these common health problems.

A couple of years ago, Gale Johnson got a diagnosis she feared would come—type 2 diabetes. “I have a list of medications that I take,” Gale said.

Patients like Gale might not need meds at all. Doctors at Washington University are studying the EndoBarrier for type 2 diabetes.

“It’s essentially doing the same kind of thing that you would get from surgery,” Shelby Sullivan, MD, Gastroenterologist, Washington University in St. Louis said.

Doctors insert the plastic-like device through a tube, passed through the mouth and stomach into the first part of the small intestines.  When food passes, the EndoBarrier forms a barrier between it and digestive enzymes in the intestine. Researchers believe the device may also alter hormone signals in the digestive tract.

“It’s affecting metabolism in a way that it’s improving diabetes,” Dr. Sullivan said.

The device is approved in Europe, Australia, Chile, and Israel, but is still in clinical trials in the U.S. In previous studies, patients experienced a weight loss of about 20 percent and improved their hemoglobin  A1c levels by two points.

“That helps a diabetic because it’s getting their blood sugar under control. So, it actually may help them get off medication,” Dr. Sullivan said.

Currently, the device is being placed in patients for just one year and is then taken out. However, Dr. Sullivan says the patients previously studied still saw long-term effects even after it was removed.  He says risks are extremely rare, but include poking a hole in the small intestine and blockages in the intestines.

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