Drug Prevents Type 2 Diabetes in Majority of High-Risk Individuals; Pennington Biomedical Research Center Participates in Key Research Study

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Released: Wednesday, March 23, 2011

BATON ROUGE, LA - Researchers have discovered that a pill taken daily prevents type 2 diabetes in more than 70 percent of individuals whose obesity, ethnicity and other markers put them at highest risk for the disease, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
The drug, called pioglitazone, is widely used as an insulin sensitizer in patients with type 2 diabetes. In the ACT Now research study, participants were chosen because of their high risk for diabetes, including obesity, family history and impaired glucose tolerance. 

Forty million Americans are at risk of developing diabetes, which is often coupled with serious consequences such as cardiovascular disease and stroke. This at-risk condition is referred to as pre-diabetes and researchers are looking for ways to delay or reduce the risk of diabetes.
The study, published March 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), conducted in-part at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, reported that the drug pioglitazone, currently marketed as Actos® for the treatment of diabetes, actually reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 72 percent.  "We tested pioglitazone in at-risk individuals for 2 years to see whether, compared to a placebo, it would reduce the conversion to diabetes.  It did indeed," said co-author George Bray, M.D., Boyd Professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"It's a blockbuster study," said senior author Ralph DeFronzo, M.D, professor in the School of Medicine and chief of the diabetes division a the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.  "The 72 percent reduction is the largest decrease in the conversion rate of pre-diabetes to diabetes that has ever been demonstrated by an intervention, be it diet, exercise or medication."  ACT Now was funded by an independent investigator grant provided by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., the marketers of Actos®.  602 participants were enrolled through the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, lead site UT Health Sciences Center San Antonio, and six collaborating centers across the United States.  Pioglitazone, used as an insulin sensitizer in patients with type 2 diabetes, was given to 303 participants, with the remaining 299 receiving a placebo.  The trial spanned 4 years, the average follow up was 2.4 years.

In addition, use of pioglitazone improved diastolic blood pressure, HDL cholesterol levels, and serum levels. It also slowed the progression of carotid artery thickening, a damaging condition associated with heart disease and strokes.  "This study represents Pennington's overarching goal of preventing the onset of debilitating chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes," said Steven Heymsfield, M.D., executive director of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.  Pennington's research seeks to uncover the triggers of chronic diseases - like diabetes and heart disease - to find comprehensive, prevention-based solutions that offer hope to more people.


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.