More Personalized Medical Treatment Recommended
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A new position statement for treatment of type 2 diabetes treatment
focuses on the individual patient rather than a "one number fits all" HbA1c
In light of the increasing complexity of glycemic management in type 2 diabetes and the wide array of antidiabetic agents now available, as well as uncertainties about the benefits of intensive glycemic control on macrovascular complications, a joint task force of the EASD and the ADA sought to develop recommendations for the treatment of nonpregnant patients with type 2 diabetes to help clinicians determine optimal therapies. Their aim was to take into account the benefits and risks of glycemic control, the efficacy and safety of the drugs used to achieve it, and each patient's situation. The resulting guidelines are published simultaneously in Diabetes Care(2012;35:1364-1379) and Diabetologia (2012;55:1577-1596) by the EASD and the ADA, and are available on the EASD Web site.
"What we're trying to do is encourage people to really engage in a complex world with the patient, given the variety of choices," said David Matthews, MD, DPhil, from the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at Churchill Hospital and the National Institute for Health Research, "And the algorithmic approach, in our view, has finally had its day. We can't do that anymore."
Dr. Matthews said the EASD and ADA writing group decided not to issue guidelines but rather to take positions and issue recommendations. "Published guidelines tend to be algorithmic, yet few clinicians prescribe by algorithms...and so there's a lot of lip service to explicit guidelines," he said.
Furthermore, there's a danger in guidelines in that some payers and regulatory bodies focus on them as an absolute measure of success or failure and pay accordingly, or not. So for this reason, the authors did not put a specific HbA1c number in their position statement, and in addition, they did not want to give the impression that it is all right for the number to drift upward if it is below a certain level.
On the other hand, a lower HbA1c value may not be best for some patients. "We've got trial data challenging the simplistic view of the lower-the-better approach to glycemic control.... That tells us we need to be careful about just using numbers, however important they may be, to treat patients," Dr. Matthews said.
So the plan is to have the physician and patient combine the best available evidence with clinical expertise and patient preferences to determine the course of treatment, which may include lifestyle interventions such as physical activity, dietary advice, and oral or injectable antidiabetic drugs, including insulin.
The position statement lays out 7 key points:
The recommendations also focus on duration of disease, life expectancy, significant comorbidities, established vascular complications, and the patient's resources and support system.
The authors make the point that although the recommendations focus on glycemic control, clinicians and patients should also pay attention to other risk factors, and specifically, "aggressive management of cardiovascular risk factors" in light of the increased risk for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality among patients with type 2 diabetes. Physicians should encourage as much physical activity as possible, aiming for a minimum of 150 min/week, consisting of aerobic, resistance, and flexibility training if possible.
If newly diagnosed patients are at or near the HbA1c target of less than 7.5% and they are highly motivated, they should be given a trial of lifestyle changes for 3 to 6 months with a goal of avoiding pharmacotherapy. But for patients with moderate hyperglycemia or for whom lifestyle changes are expected to be unsuccessful, antidiabetic drug therapy, usually with metformin, should be initiated. If lifestyle efforts are eventually successful, drug therapy may be modified or discontinued.
Many of the drugs to control blood glucose have similar efficacy, said Writing Group cochair Silvio Inzucchi, MD, professor of medicine, clinical director of the Section of Endocrinology, and director of the Yale Diabetes Center.
Based on an extensive review of more than 500 articles, "all of these drugs work more or less to the same extent," he said. "In the grand scheme of things, when you're talking about a patient taking a medication for years, perhaps decades, and being faced with side effects of medications, the differences in hemoglobin A1c may actually pale in comparison to how they experience that medication."
To guide choices of glucose-lowering agents, the authors provide in tabular form summaries of the cellular mechanisms, physiological actions, advantages, disadvantages, and costs of classes of agents and drugs within the classes. They also show an algorithm for escalating treatment, starting with lifestyle changes and progressing to initial drug monotherapy, 2- and then 3-drug therapy, and finally to basal and then more complex insulin strategies.
The recommendations end with considerations of the effects of age, weight, sex/racial/ethnic/genetic differences, the comorbidities of coronary artery disease, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, liver dysfunction, and concerns about hypoglycemia. The authors also point out several areas where data are insufficient and therefore where research efforts should be aimed.