A drug commonly used to increase the body's sensitivity to insulin may slow the progression of cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a study at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.
The study, led by Dr. Theodore Mazzone, professor of medicine at UIC, is posted online and will appear in the Dec. 6 print issue of JAMA. The results will also be presented at the American Heart Association scientific session Monday in Chicago.
Patients with type 2 diabetes are known to have an increased risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular events. Some evidence suggests that a class of oral drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes called thiazolidinediones may be useful in reducing the progression of atherosclerosis, a thickening and hardening of the arteries that can lead to cardiac events.
Mazzone and colleagues conducted a Chicago-area multicenter trial to test a potential new approach for slowing the thickening of artery walls in diabetic patients.
They enrolled 462 racially and ethnically diverse adults with type 2 diabetes. The 289 men and 173 women, whose average age was 60, were randomly assigned to receive either pioglitazone (a thiazolidinedione sold as Actos), a drug that increases the body's sensitivity to insulin, or glimepiride (sold as Amaryl), another type of diabetes drug that stimulates the pancreas to make more insulin.
Patients received a baseline ultrasound to measure the thickness of the lining and middle layers of the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain. The arteries' thickness is a marker for coronary atherosclerosis and a predictor of future heart attack. The patients were then evaluated at 24, 48 and 72 weeks to measure the progression of thickenening.
"The less the thickening, and the slower the rate of thickening, the less risk of heart attack in general," said Mazzone.