New Treatment Regimen May 'Change the Course' of Diabetes

Intensive early treatment of type 2 diabetes slows progression of the disease by preserving the body’s insulin-producing capacity, a UT Southwestern study has shown.

While intensive treatment for type 2 diabetes has been the standard at UTSW for at least a decade, the industry norm has been a stepwise approach that involves gradual treatment intensification, starting with one medication and subsequently adding more as the treatment fails.

“The intensive treatment regimen we propose is different from the stepwise approach recommended in standard guidelines,” says Ildiko Lingvay, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and author of the study published online in Diabetes Care. “We can potentially change the course of this prevalent disease, which would represent a breakthrough.”

The UTSW study showed that starting diabetes patients at the time of diagnosis on an intensive treatment regimen enabled them to maintain steady insulin-producing beta-cell function for three and a half years after diagnosis. All patients received insulin for the first three months, which was continued for the entire study in one group, or changed to a combination of three oral agents in the second group.

The study did not show that any single regimen worked better than another; both intensive treatments were just as effective, safe, and well-accepted by patients.

“The point is that whatever you choose, make sure it’s intensive,” Dr. Lingvay says. “We have shown that this treatment strategy preserves beta-cell function, and that’s the key in changing the course of the disease.”