Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Oh look, another cure for diabetes!

I was browsing Facebook tonight, and lo and behold, here's another cure for diabetes!

Cheap Blood Pressure Drug Cures Diabetes In Mice, Human Trials Announced

If I had a nickel for every time they've "cured" diabetes since I was diagnosed, I would... well, I still wouldn't have very much money, because a nickel doesn't buy squat in our day and age.  But the point is, they've discovered lots of cures since my diagnosis, and none of them have amounted to much of anything.

There are lots of factors involved here.  One is that it's difficult to figure out how to both 1) stop the autoimmune response, and 2) do something about existing damage to the pancreas.  Most diabetics don't produce much insulin on their own anymore, so in order to truly cure the disease, you have to address both problems.

The other factor is that the media is really awful about understanding all that medical mumbo jumbo -- a necessity if they are going to report it correctly.  Journalists hear researchers say that they've found something that potentially kinda sorta maybe might help diabetics in some small way, and all the journalist gets out of it is, WE HAVE A CURE!  Which, of course, is never the case.

The possibility that this drug might be able to not only halt, but also reverse, the progression of diabetes is intriguing... but I can't help but be skeptical.  What this article, and all the others I've read reporting a "cure," lacks is any explanation of how this works.  Yes, it explains the role they think TXNIP plays in the progression of the disease, but how exactly is this drug reversing the DEATH of beta cells? Preventing further beta cells from dying I could see, but bringing dead ones back...?

Also, this article says nothing about the autoimmune response.  In order to truly be "cured," the autoimmune response would have to be switched off, too.  It doesn't sound like the drug does this, so would the person have to remain on the drug for the rest of their life?  That doesn't sound like a cure to me, just as suppression of the effects of the autoimmune response.

Finally, the side effects of verapamil are very much minimized in this article.  It's not just nausea and swollen feet, as the article claims, although a lifetime of those side effects alone would be enough to give me pause.  But because this drug slows the heart rate and reduces blood pressure, it sounds like it could be dangerous for people with normal blood pressure.  Known side effects include dizziness and fainting due to excessively lowered blood pressure, which of course will be worse in people with normal blood pressure levels.  Plus it sounds like there is the possibility of liver damage.  And what's this about drug interactions?  Turns out that it interacts badly with statins -- a type of drug that the vast majority of diabetics are on, due to (in my opinion) ridiculously low cholesterol goals for diabetics.

The things is, insulin doesn't have harmful or unpleasant side effects, and as long as I manage my diabetes it's not really life threatening. I just can't see this being a better or safer alternative, even if human trials indicate that it does reverse diabetes.

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