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Common heart treatment drugs shown to reduce diabetes risk

by Beth Krane - September 19, 2005

A study by UConn researchers has discovered that two classes of drugs commonly used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure also significantly reduce patients’ risk of developing diabetes.

Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness, kidney failure, and non-trauma-related amputations in the United States.

The study, published in this month’s issue of the journal Diabetes Care, combined results of 11 clinical trials involving more than 66,000 patients. It found that taking an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) reduced patients’ risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 22 percent.

The study, a meta-analysis of all relevant published clinical trials, found that all ACE inhibitors and all ARBs are equally effective when it comes to preventing diabetes.

“This is the first study to show conclusively that these drugs, commonly used to treat patients with high blood pressure, heart disease, or heart failure, can actually prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes, a rapidly growing health threat in the United States,” says Craig Coleman, an assistant professor of pharmacy, one of five investigators from the University’s schools of pharmacy and medicine.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.3 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed each year in the United States in people 20 years of age or older, and Type 2 Diabetes may account for as much as 95 percent of all diagnosed cases.

Previous studies have shown that ACE inhibitors and ARBs slow the progression of kidney disease in those who already
have diabetes, but individually those studies did not show the drugs’ ability to prevent diabetes. Until now, physicians could only recommend diet and exercise or drugs that regulate blood insulin levels to control pre-diabetes, Coleman says.

Often patients at risk of diabetes also have high blood pressure, heart disease, or heart failure. For those patients, their physicians’ drug of choice to treat the existing condition should be either an ACE inhibitor or an ARB, based on this study, the researchers concluded.

“You’re getting two benefits in one,” says C. Michael White, an associate professor of pharmacy practice, one of the co-investigators. “You’re receiving a highly effective medication for your primary health problem and preventing the onset of a second deadly disease.”

Coleman says a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen are still the top strategies for preventing diabetes, but this discovery shows there is another effective treatment as well.

The meta-analysis of existing clinical trials allowed the researchers to identify and quantify an added benefit of these two commonly used drugs, says White.

For the full study, see http:// care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/full/28/9/2261.

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