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The Latest Scams from the Diabetic Industry

Updated January 31, 2017

Big Pharma and Big Medicine have faced many huge challenges over the past years to keep their cash cows—people with type-2 diabetes—each forking over an average of $13,700 annually (approximately 2.3 times more than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes). This financially rewarding system works well until the blood-sugar-lowering medicines, along with the gadgets and tests they rely on, are proven to be useless and dangerous. Unfortunately for the patients, industry fights back, defending their treasure-trove by hiring pricey medical experts, factoring in expected lawsuits, and exaggerating the benefits and minimizing the harms of their products.

Metformin Is Simply the Least Harmful

Metformin (Glucophage) has been commonly prescribed for over 60 years to lower blood sugar. More than half of the 58 million Medicare claims for medications to treat people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes in 2014 were for this class of oral medication. Almost all physicians these days practice under the belief that metformin is the first-line medication for diabetes because it not only lowers blood sugar but has multiple additional benefits, including fewer heart attacks and strokes (cardiovascular events) for the patient. However, the truth is that since 2001 the evidence supporting the cardiovascular benefits of diabetic medications has been recognized as seriously flawed. Furthermore, the universal claims that metformin reduces cardiovascular disease are primarily based on a small subgroup of patients (n = 342) from the 1998 United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) conducted more than three decades ago.

Honest researchers have made multiple unsuccessful attempts to overturn dogma surrounding this “first-line medication” for diabetes. In 2012 researchers published an extensive review in the highly respected journal PLOS Medicine with this conclusion: “Although metformin is considered the gold standard, its benefit/risk ratio remains uncertain. We cannot exclude a 25% reduction or a 31% increase in all-cause mortality. We cannot exclude a 33% reduction or a 64% increase in cardiovascular mortality.” Cardiovascular in this case refers to disease of the large blood vessels (macrovascular disease), resulting in strokes and heart attacks.

The macrovascular benefits from diabetic medications is universally recognized to be untrue. As a result, the “sales pitch” has turned to “microvascular benefits,” those resulting in less damage to the small blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Research strongly questions this claim. In the case of metformin, claims for microvascular benefits rest solely on the difference in one highly subjective measurement of eye damage, the need for retinal photocoagulation (a surgical technique using an intense beam of light).

Considering the lack of benefits, why has metformin become the drug of choice? Compared with other blood sugar-lowering medications, metformin’s popularity stems from the observation that it is one of the least harmful of the drugs commonly prescribed. Although useless, it does not induce hypoglycemia, weight gain, and heart failure like so many of the others.

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