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Drugs Best First Defense Against Heart Disease for Diabetics
Date:6/7/2009

Study finds medicines typically do as well as surgery, especially in less severe cases

SUNDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- Drugs should be the first line of treatment for diabetics who are also battling heart disease, a new study finds.

Only if further steps are deemed necessary should invasive interventions such as angioplasty or bypass surgery be added, the experts said.

The issue is crucial to millions of Americans, since diabetes is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease and stroke.

But the findings of the study -- to be presented Sunday at the American Diabetes Association annual meeting in New Orleans and released simultaneously online in the New England Journal of Medicine -- may not end the argument over which approach, medicine or surgery, is the best frontline treatment to ward off heart woes.

The trial enlisted almost 2,400 people with type 2 diabetes, the kind that generally develops in adulthood. These patients also had coronary artery blockages. Outcomes for the entire group were tracked for five years after treatment.

All got intensive drug therapy, either with insulin or with drugs such as metformin that increase the body's sensitivity to insulin, while some also had procedures to improve blood flow.

At five years, 87.8 percent of those getting drug therapy alone were still alive, compared to 88.3 percent of those getting drug therapy plus a surgical procedure -- not a significant difference. The incidence of major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke was also similar, at 75.9 percent in the medical treatment group and 77.2 percent in the drug-plus-procedure group. In the drug-only group, those getting insulin sensitization treatment did slightly better than those who got insulin therapy.

Reacting to the findings, the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions issued a statement saying that the trial still "does n
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