If you read title, this study sounds like it proved that Byetta is great for people with Type 2 diabetes--and that's how the press is playing it.
BYETTA(R) Study Showed Sustained Blood Glucose Control Over Three Years in People with Type 2 Diabetes
But read further and you'll see how sad the results of this study really were.
Byetta Produced Dangerous Blood Sugar Levels in 70% of those taking it.
The press release brags:
"After three years of BYETTA treatment, 46 percent of study participants achieved the American Diabetes Association's recommended target A1C of 7 percent and 30 percent
of participants achieved an A1C of 6.5 percent." [emphasis mine]
This means that fully 7 out of 10 of those taking Byetta had blood sugars high enough to damage their organs for the full 3 years of the study.
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists' (AACE) target of 6.5% which these people did NOT attain is the minimal level at which people with Type 2 diabetes are less likely to develop retinopathy, kidney failure and nerve death leading to amputation. And the 6.5% A1c isn't ideal, as it still represents a higher risk for heart disease than a 5% A1c would be.
The ADA's 7% A1c target is helpful for people with Type 1 diabetes, but the major study of people with Type 2 diabetes, the UKPDS, found that maintaining a 7% A1c only reduced microvascular complications in Type 2s by 12% far, far less than it did for Type 1s. In short, it's dangerously high for a Type 2.
So what this study really says is that seven out of ten people in this group of patients, despite taking a very expensive injectable drug for three years, maintained blood sugars high enough to damage all their organs over a three year period.
And this is supposed to be good news.
It gets worse.
Byetta Caused Trivial Weight Loss in Most People
When patients report that Byetta isn't helping their blood sugars, they are told to keep taking it because it causes weight loss.
But here's what Lilly's own press release claims their own study found about Byetta's weight loss.
"Weight loss from baseline was progressive, with participants losing on average 11.68 +/- 0.88 lbs at three years. In addition, one in four patients lost an average
of 28.66 lbs."
What this means is that three out of four people taking this expensive drug that did NOT control their blood sugar lost an average of 11.68 pounds over three years, or not quite four pounds a year.
This, in a population of obese Type 2s who typically weigh 250 lbs or more. You tell me, is this a dream weight loss drug? Or are patients being had?
Now it is true that one out of four of those in the study lost an average of 29 lbs over 3 years, which is better than the three quarters who got almost no results, but people who adopt low carb diets usually lose at least that much, too, and they do it without expensive drugs and with far better blood sugar control.
I lost about 29 lbs myself over a one-year stint of low carbing in 2002 and I have kept it off for 4 years even after raising my carb intke--which is documented in my participation in the longterm CCARBS study where I had to be weighed every year by a doctor.
So here's the truth about Byetta:
Byetta is Magic for a Few and a Dangerous Distraction for the Rest of Us
We've all heard the success stories, most notably that of David Mendosa who is bragging about his huge weight loss and reversion to normal blood sugars all over the web. But this study makes it crystal clear that Mendosa is one of the very few, very lucky people who have something wrong with them that Byetta can fix.
You'd have to be delusional to believe that Medosa's experience is not the exception, rather than the rule. Lilly's own data, summarized here, suggests and that spending a few years on Byetta may give your high blood sugars the chance they need to make you go blind, kill your nerves, and put you on dialysis.
Bottom line: There's no harm in trying Byetta. Maybe you'll be one of the very few lucky folks for whom it is a magic elixir. But if you don't have normal blood sugars after 6 months on Byetta--as defined by a 5% A1c or better, demand your doctor put you on insulin to normalize your blood sugars and assure your health. Staying on this drug for years while your A1c is over 6.5% month in and month out makes as much sense as playing Russian Roulette.
When it comes to blood sugar control, there is only one drug that ALWAYS works: Insulin, when dosed correctly.
And if your doctor tells you that Byetta is a great drug, ask him how many of the patients he is treating with it have A1cs below 6.5% or 7%. If the answer isn't, "Most", it's time to find a better doctor.