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Low-Cost Drug Not Being Prescribed to Pre-Diabetes Patients



There’s a low-cost drug that can help prevent the onset of diabetes, but few doctors are prescribing it, according to a new study.

The study, from investigators at UCLA, was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

It found that only 3.7 percent of adults with pre-diabetes were given metformin during a recent three-year period.

Metformin and lifestyle changes both can prevent the onset of diabetes, but people often struggle to adopt healthier habits, according to Dr. Tannaz Moin, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and at VA Greater Los Angeles.

“Diabetes is prevalent, but pre-diabetes is even more prevalent and we have evidence-based therapies like metformin that are very safe and that work,” Moin said. “Metformin is rarely being used for diabetes prevention among people at risk for developing it. This is something that patients and doctors need to be talking about and thinking about.”

It is estimated that about one-third of adults in the U.S. have pre-diabetes, which is marked by higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, according to a news release from UCLA. The American Diabetes Association has issued guidelines saying that metformin can be used in diabetes for people under 60 who are at very high risk; have a history of gestational diabetes; or are severely obese.

Metformin may also be considered for patients whose blood sugar is not normal but not yet in the diabetes range.

The researchers examined data from 2010 to 2012 from UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest private insurer, for a national sample of 17,352 adults aged 19 to 58 with pre-diabetes.

It’s not clear why metformin isn’t used enough, but it may be due to ignorance of the 2002 Diabetes Prevention Program Study, which proved the usefulness of metformin. Another reason may be that the drug doesn’t have FDA approval for pre-diabetes treatment.

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