When Diabetes Treatment Does More Harm Than Good

Current treatment guidelines for type 2 diabetes urge clinicians to intensify treatment until blood sugar goals are reached. However, a new study suggests that for some type 2 diabetics, undergoing frequent insulin injections or taking other medication might in fact be more trouble than it's worth.

This new study, appearing in the Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine, argues that treatment protocol for this patient population ought to be more attentive to the safety and potential adverse events of treating type 2 diabetes, and not as much towards the disease itself.

"If you're a patient with fairly low complication risks, but are experiencing symptoms from low blood sugar, gaining weight or find frequent insulin shots to be disruptive to your daily life, then the drugs are doing more harm than good, said study lead author Sandeep Vijan M.D., M.S., professor of Internal Medicine at the U-M Medical School and research scientist at the Center for Clinical Management Research at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. "For people with type 2 diabetes, the goal of managing blood sugar levels is to prevent associated diabetes complications, such as kidney, eye and heart disease. But it is essential to balance complication risks and treatment burdens when deciding how aggressively to treat blood sugars."

While their findings do not apply to approximately 20 percent of type 2 diabetics, they nonetheless stress the importance of individualized treatment and patient quality of life.

"Drugs that lower blood sugar levels are extremely beneficial in some patients but offer almost no benefit for others," added senior author Dr. Rodney Hayward. "These results have major implications for the millions of people who are currently being told that they need to increase medication in order to achieve their glucose goal."

Photo: Medical Daily, Diabetes

Research shows that in many patients drugs meant to lower blood sugar offer no benefit at all.