Non-diabetics with higher-than-recommended blood sugar levels and thus at risk for developing type 2 diabetes are considered pre-diabetic, however classifying large numbers of people with pre-diabetes offers more benefit to drug companies than those diagnosed with the condition, researchers argue.
In an editorial published in the British Medical Journal, researchers with University College London and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota said that labeling people as pre-diabetic increases the likelihood that they will be prescribed medication prematurely, which would at best only briefly delay the onset of illness. It would also prematurely expose them to potential side effects from the drugs.
John Yudkin, emeritus professor of medicine at UCL, says pre-diabetes “is an artificial category with virtually zero clinical relevance … There is no proven benefit of giving diabetes treatment drugs to people in this category before they develop diabetes, particularly since many of them would not go on to develop diabetes anyway.”
Many so-called pre-diabetics can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by following a healthy diet and getting exercise, which in turn would benefit their overall health. Patients who are put on diabetes medication prematurely may skimp on following a healthier lifestyle. But they are also at risk for side effects, some of which can be life threatening.
For example, studies have linked the type 2 diabetes drug Actos to bladder cancer, and the drugs Januvia and Byetta have been linked to acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
“We need to stop looking at this as a clinical problem with pharmaceutical solutions and focus on improving public health,” Yudkin says. “The whole population would benefit from a more healthy diet and more physical activity, so it makes no sense to single out so many people and tell them that they have a disease.”
Source: The Guardian