Long-term glycaemic efficacy and weight changes associated with thiazolidinediones when added at an advanced stage of type 2 diabetes

D S H Bell, F Ovalle
Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism 2006, 8 (1): 110-5

OBJECTIVE: To describe the outcome of 35 patients with type 2 diabetes prospectively followed for 6 years after the addition of a thiazolidinedione (TZD) to a failing regimen of a sulphonylurea and metformin -- triple oral therapy.

METHODS: Study patients were assessed for the need for the addition of insulin to their regimen, and follow-up clinical and laboratory findings were analysed.

RESULTS: At a mean follow-up of 72 +/- 1.5 months (range 53-80), 18 (51%) of patients remained well controlled on triple oral therapy with a mean glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) value of 6.9 +/- 0.2% (upper limit of normal 6.2%). In 17 other patients, triple oral therapy failed and the use of insulin was necessary after a mean duration of 38 (range 18-68) months. The mean HbA1c in these patients was 8.0 +/- 0.3%. The group that was maintained on triple oral therapy gained 15.2 +/- 1.9 lbs over the 6-year study which was significantly higher than the baseline weight. Alternatively, the group that failed and had insulin added to their therapy gained 20.2 +/- 4.5 lbs over the same period which was also significantly different from baseline but not from the triple oral therapy group. Although after 3 years a trend towards weight loss occurred in the triple oral therapy group, the insulin-added group continued to gain weight. Stimulated C-peptide levels increased significantly in the triple therapy group from 3.6 +/- 0.9 to 4.3 +/- 1.2 ng/ml and had not increased or decreased non-significantly from 3.7 +/- 0.8 to 3.2 +/- 0.6 ng/ml at the time of insulin initiation in the insulin-requiring group.

CONCLUSION: When used late in the course of type 2 diabetes, TZDs result in improved and prolonged glycaemic control which persisted for a median time of 6 years. Weight gain with TZDs peaks and then plateaus (and even trends downwards) at 3 years, although the addition of insulin to a failing oral therapy regimen results in a further and continuing weight gain in spite of inferior glycaemic control. Continuing glycaemic control with triple oral therapy is dependent on preservation or augmentation of endogenous insulin production.

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