Monday, January 17, 2011

Is There a Medication that Can Cure Diabetes?

Researchers have announced that a combination of two existing medications, Januvia (sitagliptin) and Prevacid (lansoprazole) may regenerate the lost beta-cells that the pancreas uses to make insulin.

Type 1 diabetics are people who have already lost all or essentially all of their beta-cells. Type 2 diabetics often lose all or essentially all of their beta-cells over time, if they cannot or do not keep their blood sugar levels in control. It isn't just people who have the classically defined type 1 diabetes who can need a boost to their beta-cell count. Researchers believe Januvia and Prevacid may be the tool for bring back these insulin-producing cells and maybe curing both forms of diabetes.

In laboratory studies with mice, these two drugs act together (1) to stimulate the growth of new beta-cells and (2) to prevent the "burn out" of existing beta-cells that is caused when blood sugar levels go too high. Growing your own beta cells in humans would give diabetics the benefits of a transplant without the necessity of having a transplant. But that doesn't mean there are no problems with this approach.

Used by itself, Januvia hasn't proven itself to be very helpful for most type 2 diabetics. Some respond to it very well. About 2/3 of users don't respond at all, and changes in the hormone levels that affect the release of sugar from the liver after eating turn out also to affect the body's immune defenses against melanoma. A few people have had really horrific skin reactions to Januvia.

Prevacid is very effective for stopping heartburn. It also stops calcium absorption. Chronic use of Prevacid can endanger your bones.

So it may turn out that the combination of Januvia and Prevacid really will be a cure for diabetes, but it will be a cure for diabetes that will either cause other problems or require very careful management. One word of advice: Don't be the first to try this! The combination is promising, but day to day use is still in the future.

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