Anti-Inflammatory Drug salicylate, Used for Thousands of Years, Now Found to Lower Blood Glucose Levels in People with Type 2 Diabet

June 10, 2012 (ADA Philadelphia) – In the first modern-day clinical trial of one of the world’s oldest drugs, researchers have found that salicylate, first used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks to ease pain caused by inflammation, also has glucose-lowering properties and may be a potential treatment later on for people with type 2 diabetes.

“Though this anti-inflammatory drug has been around perhaps longer than any other, nobody has ever looked before to see what other properties it might have,” said Steven Shoelson, MD, PhD, Associate Director of Research at the Joslin Diabetes Center and Principal Investigator for the study.

“The exciting thing here is that this drug is relatively inexpensive and has been in use for so long for other purposes, such as treating joint pain, and that we believe it is safe. We now have to determine whether the degree to which this drug lowers blood glucose levels is large enough to warrant using it as an addition to the diabetes drug armamentarium.”

In a year-long trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, researchers compared use of salicylate to placebo in 286 patients with type 2 diabetes and found that it reduced A1C levels (a measure of average blood glucose levels over time) by 0.24 percent over 48 weeks.

When given to people who were also using statins, the drug appeared to lower glucose levels even more, which could help to mitigate the fact that statin use has been associated with elevated blood glucose levels in some studies.
These are preliminary results which need confirmation in subsequent trials. “This is of particular importance,” Shoelson said, “because it may give those who would benefit from statins but are concerned about increasing their risk for diabetes a means of offsetting that risk.”

Researchers also found evidence of the drug’s anti-inflammatory effects. White blood cell, neutrophil and lymphocyte counts decreased in those who took the drug, from high levels to lower levels within the normal range. While anti-inflammatory effects of salicylate have long been known, these particular effects have not been documented previously in clinical trials. In addition, those who took the drug saw an increase in adiponectin of 21 percent and a decrease in uric acid of 11 percent, suggesting some cardiovascular protective qualities and a potential reduction in risk for gout, which is often associated with diabetes.

Side effects included minimal weight gain of 1 kg over the study’s duration and triglyceride levels dropped in those who took the drug.

Many diabetic patientes already take a small dose of aspirin as cardiovascular prevention for secondary prevention.

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