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Originally published January 9 2008

New, over-hyped diabetes drugs no better than older, cheaper drugs

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) New, expensive diabetes drugs function no better than older versions while carrying more dangerous side effects, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers from Tufts University conducted a meta-analysis of 29 prior studies of Byetta (from Eli Lilly and Co. and Amylin Pharmaceuticals) and Januvia (from Merck & Co.). The drugs have become highly popular recently, largely because they do not cause weight gain or low blood sugar like older diabetes drugs do.

The two new drugs act by a mechanism called incretin-based therapy, which targets the hormones that regulate insulin secretion after a meal. Byetta is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring hormone, while Januvia acts by blocking an enzyme that breaks down that hormone.

The Tufts study concluded that the drugs are effective at controlling blood sugar, but not any more so than older, less expensive medications. In addition, because 26 of the 29 studies were less than 8 months long, the researchers warned that the drugs' long-term health effects are unknown. Even with the short-term studies, the medications are already known to have side effects including infection, nausea and vomiting.

"[The new drugs] are 10 to 12 times more expensive," said lead researcher Anastassios Pittas. "The question is, are they 10 times better? It's pretty amazing to me that we have six-month data and a lot of people are willing to jump on this, even though the drugs haven't proven themselves ... and they are very, very expensive."

While older drugs such as metformin are available for less than 60 cents per pill, Januvia costs approximately $5.50 per pill, and one cartridge of the injectable drug Byetta costs $200.

"It would be premature to fully embrace and use both these classes of medications over older, more established medications for a chronic condition such as diabetes," Pittas said.

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