Sunday, August 01, 1999

Breakthroughs offer hope for diabetics

Enquirer contributor

        An estimated 15.7 million Americans are diabetic, according to the American Diabetes Association, and some new products and research spell good news for many of them.

        Although the cause of diabetes is a mystery, the effect is that the body fails to manufacture or use insulin properly, the hormone required to convert sugar and starches into energy. The seventh leading cause of death in America, diabetes is also a leading cause of as blindness, kidney disease, heart disease and strokes.

        Insulin-dependent diabetics are amiliar with the routine of testing blood sugar daily by pricking the finger for a drop of blood, placing the blood on a coded strip, and recording the numbers in a daily log book. A new diabetic modem, being tested in Buffalo, San Francisco, Milwaukee and several other cities, allows a person with diabetes to send daily information to a doctor's office instantly.

        Produced by Indianapolis-based Roche Diagnostics, the Acculink modem system works with the Accu-Chek Complete blood glucose meter and transmits blood sugar information directly from the patient's home or work telephone to the doctor's computer or fax machine. Information can be sent at any time, 24 hours a day. The result is fewer office visits and more efficient adjustment to treatment plans.

New drug for Type II
        A new drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration July 16 for use by Type II diabetics. Type II diabetes refers to people who get the disease in adulthood, and for whom diet and exercise are often the primary treatments. Actos, known chemically as pioglitazone, works to resensitize an individual's body to insulin.

        A competitor for the popular drug, Rezulin, which became available in 1997, Actos tests of 4,500 patients found it to be free of the liver-damage side effect associated with Rezulin. Actos is produced by Takeda Pharmaceutical and marketed by Eli Lilly & Co. It is scheduled to be available by prescription next month.

Alcohol consumption
        Moderate consumption of alcohol is heart-healthy for diabetics in the same way that it is for other adults, according to a study reported in the July 21 Journal of the American Medical Association.

        While some researchers have feared that alcohol could disrupt blood sugar levels for diabetics, the 12-year study, led by Dr. Charles Valmadrid of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School, found that diabetics who had one or two drinks daily were up to 80 percent less likely to die of heart disease than diabetics who did not drink. All 983 participants in the study were Type II, or adult onset, diabetics.

        Earlier research has found that among non-diabetics, moderate drinking reduces the risk of heart disease by 20 percent to 60 percent. Findings stress the importance of “moderation” in alcohol consumption, however, pointing out that the decreased risk of heart disease could ultimately be outweighed by other risks such as cancer and liver disease, depression, or unintentional injuries.

Learning more
        For general information about diabetes or advocacy updates, contact: the American Diabetes Association, 1660 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314; (703) 549-1500; Fax 703-549-8748. Or call the Cincinnati Chapter of the ADA at 759-9330.

        Cincinnati writer Deborah Kendrick is a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, Tempo, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202. E-mail:


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