Old drug prevents diabetes-linked complications


Sydney : A widely available cholesterol-lowering drug in vogue 30 years ago could prevent or delay some of the most serious health complications associated with diabetes today, according to a new study.

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Results previously published from a five-year study involving nearly 10,000 people with type-2 diabetes have shown that people taking fenofibrate gained protection against kidney damage and diabetic eye disease – both common complications of diabetes.

“The effects of fenofibrate in reducing the risk of amputations in patients with established microvascular complications were particularly striking,” informed cardiologist Tony Keech of the University of Sydney, who led the study.

Keech said “what has become clear with this data on amputations, and previously with the strong results in diabetic eye disease and kidney damage, is that fenofibrate is providing benefits that are not available with other lipid-lowering drugs”.

The latest findings from the same study, released at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Rome on Sep 9, showed that fenofibrate also reduces the risk of amputation by 38 percent.

Amputation is a grave concern for diabetics. The combination of nerve damage and poor circulation associated with diabetes implies that diabetics are 25 times more likely to suffer from amputation than others. Apart from accidents, diabetes is responsible for up to 70 percent of limb amputations.

The FIELD study, as it is called, was conducted by the National Health and Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Centre at the University of Sydney.

Results released last year showed that fenofibrate was helpful in delaying or preventing diabetic eye disease. Close to a third of diabetics suffer from diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when small blood vessels in the retina are damaged by high glucose levels and raised blood pressure.

The only treatment is laser surgery, but that is not completely effective and can cause damage to the retina. It is a major cause of blindness.

Over the five years of the study, people who had diabetic retinopathy and took fenofibrate reduced their need to have their first laser treatment by 31 percent.

In patients who didn’t know they had the disease at the start of the trial, taking fenofibrate reduced the need for laser treatment by 49 percent.