Findings from the study, which was funded by Avandia's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, were published in the June 3 online edition of The Lancet.
The trial included 207 adults with impaired glucose tolerance, sometimes called pre-diabetes. Not everyone with impaired glucose tolerance goes on to develop type 2 diabetes, but the condition is associated with long-term cardiovascular risks, according to Dr. Richard Bergenstal, president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association.
"Impaired glucose tolerance, although not labeled a disease, is not a benign condition," he said.
The current gold standard of treatment for pre-diabetes, according to Bergenstal, is lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise and losing weight. And, when maintained, lifestyle changes can be very effective in preventing type 2 diabetes, but such changes aren't always maintained.
"Lifestyle changes have to be the basis for treating diabetes," concurred Zinman, "But, the number of people who implement those changes effectively is small. For someone to lose weight and maintain that weight loss is uncommon."
The study included a year of structured lifestyle intervention for all of the study volunteers. In addition, 103 study participants were given 2 milligrams (mg) of Avandia once a day and 500 mg of metformin twice daily, while 104 people were given placebo pills.
The average follow-up time was 3.9 years, and during that time 14 percent of the drug combo group developed type 2 diabetes, while 39 percent of the placebo group did.
That translates to a 66 percent reduced risk of progressing to diabetes for the treatment group, according to the study.
Additionally, 80 percent of those treated achieved normal blood sugar levels during the study compared to just 53 percent in the placebo group.
"It's critically important that we stem this epidemic of diabet
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