If people with diabetes start the drug metformin early-within three months of diagnosis—it appears the drug will remain effective longer, a new study finds.
"This study suggests that to gain full benefit from metformin, patients should start taking it as soon as they find out they have diabetes," said lead author Jonathan B. Brown, PhD, an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon.
Metformin, a generic drug, treats type 2 diabetes by helping the body control blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, most people are forced to turn to other medications after a while because metformin stops working. These other drugs can be more expensive and can boost the risk for weight gain.
The study, which followed nearly 1,800 people with diabetes for up to five years, found that the drug took longer to fail in people who began taking it within three months of being diagnosed with diabetes.
In them, it failed at a rate of 12% a year. For those who began taking metformin a year or two after diagnosis, it failed at a rate of 21.4% a year.
The study was published in Diabetes Care.
"We believe that starting the drug early preserves the body's own ability to control blood sugar, which in turn prevents the long-term complications of diabetes, like heart disease, kidney failure and blindness," said study coauthor Gregory A. Nichols, PhD, an investigator with the Kaiser center. "The American Diabetes Association recommends that patients start taking metformin and make lifestyle changes as soon as they are diagnosed. This study provides more evidence to back up that recommendation."
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