(NewsNation) — A large-scale clinical trial comparing four common drugs used to treat Type 2 diabetes found that two of the drugs performed “modestly better” than the others, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported Wednesday.
Funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and launched in 2013 by the Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness Study (GRADE), researchers found that glargine and liraglutide outperformed glimepiride and sitagliptin at helping people maintain their blood glucose levels.
The study, which examined 5,047 people with Type 2 diabetes from diverse racial and ethnic groups at 36 U.S. study centers, is especially important, as 90% to 95% of the 37 million Americans living with diabetes have Type 2.
“Knowing that we are fighting an obesity epidemic and that Type 2 diabetes trends are going up, even in pediatric patients, this gives more tools to health care providers to help achieve (blood glucose) control,” said Dr. Ilan Shapiro, chief health correspondent and medical affairs officer at AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles, said to the NIH.
Unlike Type 1, patients with Type 2 diabetes typically require more than one medication to control blood sugar levels over time and are more likely to develop complications such as nerve, kidney, and eye diseases.
While there is a unified school of thought on how to treat diabetes in its early stages — metformin combined with diet and exercise — there is no one true approach on how to scale high blood glucose back.
“This study was designed to provide health care providers with important information on how to guide the long-term management of Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Henry Burch, NIDDK’s project scientist for GRADE, in a statement to the NIH. “This is an integral step toward precision medicine for diabetes care, as these results can now be used in the decision-making process for each individual patient in light of their levels of glucose control, how well the medications are tolerated, and the person’s other health considerations.”
The study found, however, that no one drug dramatically overperformed the others, as nearly three-fourths of the participants were unable to maintain the blood glucose target over the span of the study.
“GRADE effectively shows which drugs worked best at achieving and maintaining blood glucose targets over time, but we need to establish even more effective strategies for the long-term maintenance of acceptable glucose levels,” GRADE study chair Dr. David M. Nathan said to NIH. “We still have more work to do, such as evaluating other interventions and treatment combinations to help people with Type 2 diabetes achieve long-term glucose control.”