An experimental drug could be promising for simultaneously treating two of society's biggest ills -- diabetes and heart disease -- by raising "good" HDL cholesterol levels and lowering blood sugar levels.
A new analysis of drug-testing data, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that a kind of drug called cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitors could provide both diabetes and heart disease treatment benefits.
Researchers found in their analysis that torcetrapib, a kind of CETP inhibitor, raised good cholesterol levels and lowered blood sugar levels, but also raised the risk of other heart problems and death. Now, more research is needed to see if two other CETP drugs, called dalcetrapib and anacetrapib, are able to produce the same benefits as torcetrapib without the negative effects.
The last big diabetes drug to make the news was Avandia. Federal health officials required manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline to put a warning label on the drug because of its increased risk of heart attack; that drug is only recommended for use if no other available drugs are effective at controlling blood sugar levels.
Diabetes affects 8.3 percent of all people in the United States, and 26.9 percent of people ages 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is closely linked with heart disease and stroke, and is the seventh biggest cause of death in the U.S.
While family history and age are major risk factors for both diseases, the risk of diabetes and heart disease can be lowered by regularly exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, according to the American Diabetes Association.
For the new study researchers from the Heart Research Institute at the University of Sydney in Australia analyzed the data from 6,661 people with Type 2 diabetes who participated in the ILLUMINATE trial.
They found that torcetrapib taken with cholesterol-lowering statins raised good cholesterol levels by 67 percent, The Telegraph reported. However, patients who only took statins didn't see any increase in good cholesterol levels.
In addition, patients who took both statins and torcetrapib had blood sugar levels that were 7 percent lower than those who just took the statins, according to The Telegraph.
"The possibility that CETP inhibitor drugs may not only reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, but may also improve the control of blood sugar in people with diabetes, is an exciting prospect that may translate into real health benefits for people with diabetes," study researcher Dr. Philip Barter, professor of medicine at the Heart Research Institute, said in a statement.