Study Challenges Blood-Sugar Control for Diabetics

Correction Feb. 7, 2008

A source was misidentified in the broadcast version of this story. James Dove is the president of the American College of Cardiology.

Federal officials have revamped a big diabetes study because some patients were dying of a treatment designed to help them. The finding challenges the main goal of diabetes care — that it's good to get every patient's blood sugar as close to normal as possible.

Millions of patients with diabetes are struggling to get their blood sugars as close to normal as possible. The benefits are proven with Type 1 diabetes, which usually begins early in life. But proof has been lacking for Type 2 diabetes, which is far more common.

So the National Institutes of Health launched a big study of aggressive blood-sugar control: 10,000 older diabetics at high risk of heart disease got either standard diabetes care or intensive treatment to lower their blood sugar.

The results were the opposite of what everybody expected. The group that got standard treatment had 203 deaths. But the group that got intensive blood-sugar-lowering treatment had 257 deaths over four years. That's 54 more deaths in the group with lower blood sugar. The analysis failed to find a specific drug or reason why deaths were higher in that group.

Confronted with this surprising evidence, officials stopped intensive treatment a year-and-a-half before the study is scheduled to end.

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