Washington, May 22 : Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Centre have found that a drug used to treat arthritis can actually help in treating type 2 diabetes.
Salsalate, an anti inflammatory drug used for decades to treat arthritis can in fact help in treating type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar and reducing inflammation.
"These are the first studies showing that potentially safe and tolerable doses of salsalate lower blood sugars and have other favourable effects in patients with type 2 diabetes," said Dr Allison B. Goldfine, lead researcher, Director of Clinical Research at Joslin and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School.
A previous study led by the same team of researchers had shown that salsalate might prevent type 2 diabetes.
During the present analysis the researchers conducted two studies involving small numbers of patients with type 2 diabetes. One tested salsalate on seven subjects at a dose of 4.5 grams per day, while the other used 3 grams per day on nine subjects.
The results showed that patients in both groups showed benefits such as reductions in blood sugar between 10 and 20 percent, but improvements were greatest in the group taking the higher dose.
Even Glucose utilization also improved in both groups, although those taking the higher dose showed a 50 percent improvement, compared to 15 percent for those on the lower dose. The studies ran for two weeks each.
The circulating levels of triglycerides and free fatty acids also showed reductions, particularly at the higher dose.
The third study, a double blind, placebo-controlled trial that ran for four weeks, involved eight patients on the drug and nine on placebo. It showed that participants on the drug showed improvements similar to those reported in the patients in the other two studies analysed.
"It is rare to see basic discoveries move from bench to bedside so quickly. This was fueled by at least two things, first the ready availability of a safe drug, and second the environment at the Joslin Diabetes Center which is ideally suited to rapid advancements in clinical discovery," said Steven Shoelson, head of the Section of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Joslin, and Professor at Harvard Medical School.
"Our findings are potentially very exciting because we show that a medication that treats inflammation may also treat diabetes and related medical conditions," said Goldfine.
"If we can show in the larger clinical trials now underway that it is safe and effective, it means salsalate may be a new way to treat diabetes," he added.
The present study is an extension of the studies led by Dr. Steven Shoelson that revealed the molecular pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes and the role of obesity in promoting diabetes and other metabolic conditions, including atherosclerosis.
It is long been known that salicylates could lower blood glucose levels. Together researchers Goldfine and Shoelson focussed their study on salsalate, which is a salicylate similar to aspirin.