Type 2 diabetes used to be a disease that affected mostly adults who were overweight and over 40. But as obesity has grown among children and teenagers, the condition is increasing among youths between the ages of 10 and 19. An estimated 1 in 6 children and teens is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While losing weight through diet and exercise is the first line of treatment for children with type 2 diabetes, many kids may need medication to control their blood sugar. Only one drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.
Metformin is a glucose-lowering medication in pill and liquid form. Used daily, metformin increases the body’s sensitivity to its own insulin so it becomes more active and pushes glucose into the cells. The most common side effects of metformin – upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea – generally go away within a few weeks. In rare cases, metformin can cause a serious and sometimes fatal side effect called lactic acidosis – a buildup of lactic acid in the blood. This rare condition has occurred mostly in people whose kidneys were not working normally.
Injectible insulins – which move glucose from the blood to the body’s cells – are approved for children with diabetes. If metformin alone doesn’t bring the blood sugar down to normal, insulin can be injected and help achieve better control.
While metformin is the only type 2 diabetes treatment option for children and adolescents, a number of diabetes drugs are FDA-approved for adults. Many of these drugs are currently being studied for use in children. The concern, however, is the potential for serious side effects.
Two common type 2 diabetes drugs have been cited by the FDA in the past year. Avandia was severely restricted by the FDA after studies linked the drug to heart attacks. The agency also alerted doctors and patients that the drug Actos was possibly linked to bladder cancer. Neither drug is currently approved for use in children or teenagers.
ACTOS is a trademark of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and used under license by Takeda Pharmaceuticals America, Inc.
AVANDIA is a registered trademark of GlaxoSmithKline.