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Controversial Cholesterol Drug Might Lower Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics
Date:7/19/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Australian researchers have discovered that a drug initially designed to raise levels of "good" HDL cholesterol has an unexpected benefit in people with type 2 diabetes: it lowered their blood sugar.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that this particular medication, torcetrapib, also has a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular problems and mortality. In fact, the problems were so significant with torcetrapib that the initial trial, known as ILLUMINATE, was halted early. However, there are two other medications -- dalcetrapib and anacetrapib -- in the same drug class as torcetrapib that don't appear to have the same heart risks, according to the study authors.

What remains to be seen is if these other drugs have the same benefits that torcetrapib did.

"Diabetic patients in the ILLUMINATE trial who received the combination of atorvastatin plus torcetrapib had lower levels of [short-term and long-term blood sugar] than those receiving atorvastatin alone, indicating that treatment with torcetrapib, compared with placebo, resulted in improvement in diabetic control," wrote the Australian researchers.

Atorvastatin, better known by its brand name, Lipitor, is a statin that's commonly prescribed to reduce levels of LDL, or "bad," cholesterol.

Results of the Australian study are published in the Aug. 2 issue of Circulation.

Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease, and significantly increases the likelihood of having a heart attack, according to background information in the study. Dyslipidemia (which means high LDL levels and low HDL levels) is common for people with type 2 diabetes.

The drug torcetrapib is from a class of medications called CETP inhibitors. These drugs help raise levels of HDL cholesterol.

The ILLUMINATE trial included 6,661 people
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