The oral medications most widely used to lower blood-sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes are likely to increase the risk of spasm of the coronary arteries, reports a University of Chicago-based research team in the July 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Constricted arteries increase blood pressure and decrease blood flow to the heart, causing chest pain and even sudden death, shows the study, which focused on mice with a genetic defect that duplicates the actions of these drugs.
Sulfonylurea drugs are the mainstay of therapy for non-insulin-dependent diabetes, which affects an estimated 15 million people in the United States. These drugs stimulate the beta cells of the pancreas to squeeze out more insulin and also make insulin more effective.
Since the early 1970s, however, several studies have suggested that sulfonylurea drugs may actually increase cardiovascular problems in diabetic patients. The link between these drugs and heart damage has been disputed, because it was not clear -- until now -- exactly how such medications increased cardiovascular risk. The new study demonstrates a direct link between the receptor for sulfonylurea drugs and coronary arterial spasm, heart damage and death.
John Easton | EurekAlert!
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