Type 2 diabetes: Insulin greater risk, finds Cardiff study

Blood sugar check
Image caption People with diabetes need to measure blood glucose levels

Patients with type 2 diabetes treated with insulin could be exposed to a greater risk of complications, a Cardiff University study has found.

Academics examined the risk for patients compared with other treatments lowering blood glucose levels.

Patients with type 2 diabetes are typically older people who are overweight.

But the study's professor stressed that people should not stop taking insulin, but speak to their GP if concerned.

The study found these patients have a greater risk of complications like heart attack and stroke.

The academics from the university's school of medicine used UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) data that characterises about 10% of the UK population for their research.

"Insulin treatment remains the most longstanding blood glucose-lowering therapies for people with type 2 diabetes, with its use growing markedly in recent years," said Prof Craig Currie from Cardiff University's School of Medicine, who led the study.

"However, with new diabetes therapies and treatments emerging there has been a new spotlight on treatments to ensure what the best and safest form of diabetes treatment is.

"By reviewing data from CPRD between 1999 and 2011 we've confirmed there are increased health risks for patients with type 2 diabetes who take insulin to manage their condition," he adds.

The study adds to previous findings which identified potential health risks of insulin in this specific group of people.

No adverse effects

Initial concerns were first raised over the use of insulin in type 2 diabetes from a population-based study in Canada, which reported a three-fold increase in mortality.

A similar study of people in UK primary care with type 2 diabetes treated with insulin also reported a 50% risk of increased mortality compared with another common treatment regimen.

Prof Currie said: "Patients currently being treated with insulin should not, under any circumstances, stop taking their medications, and it is important to emphasise that this report related to only type 2 diabetes, which typically starts in older people who are overweight.

The professor stressed that every patient's individual circumstances were different and treatment decisions were managed by their clinician with all of their medical history fully considered.

"The vast majority of people who take insulin will experience no adverse effects and it remains a reliable and common form of treatment worldwide, but this study shows that we need to investigate this matter urgently and the drug regulatory authorities should take interest in this issue.

"Anyone who is concerned should speak to their GP first before taking any action on managing their condition."

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