When you have diabetes, you need to control your diet, exercise and sometimes take medication. If one medicine isn't successful, your doctor may add a second one. Now a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that one of those second choices, a standard diabetes drug may increase the risk of death.
Diabetes runs in Jerry webb's family. "I grew up around a lot of diabetic people," he says. All three of my siblings are diabetic, my dad, two of his sisters and an uncle."
About a year ago Jerry received his diagnosis. That meant changing his diet, exercising more and taking a drug called metformin. It helps your body use the blood sugar that it has, more efficiently.
Doctors consider metformin the best first line medication for diabetes, but there's less evidence about the best second drug.
Researchers at the Nashville VA Medical Center studied several thousand veterans who added insulin or a group of drugs called sulfonylureas to their metformin.
Lead study author Dr. Christianne Roumie says, "between those two groups there were no differences in heart attacks or stroke hospitalization, but the group that added insulin had a higher risk for death from any cause."
Dr. Roumie says most patients can use a sulfonylurea, such as Glucotrol, along with their metformin, but there's no advantage to adding insulin.
However, one area diabetes specialist says the study raises more questions than it answers and it contradicts earlier research.
Dr. Jan Ulbrecht, an endocrinologist with Mt. Nittany Medical Center says, "all the options that are available to control diabetes can have, may have side effects and, in dealing with any given patient, one has to consdier all the pros and cons of any given treatment. And this information is really just a small blip on the radar."
He says the latest study won't have a dramatic effect on the way he treats his patients and he doesn't expect it to have a major effect on diabetes treatment, in general.
Dr. Ulbrecht is also a diabetic and says he may soon need to add insulin to the metformin he already takes.