Docs: Use cheap diabetes meds first

A new study could spell lower sales for newer, more costly diabetes meds. Americans with diabetes nearly doubled their prescription drug spending over the past six years, with the 2007 total reaching a whopping $12.5 billion. Though there are more people in treatment for the potentially deadly disease, the increase has been driven mostly by new, more expensive drugs.

The study comes just a week after experts issued updated treatment advice for Type 2 diabetes, saying doctors should try older, cheaper medications first. And another study adds heft to an older, cheaper drug metformin, a generic in use for decades; researchers found that it may prevent deaths from heart disease while the newer, more expensive Avandia didn't show that benefit. (And as you know, there's been a variety of safety questions about GlaxoSmithKline's Avandia over the past 18 months or so.)

"If you can achieve the same glucose control at lower cost and lower side effects," Dr. David Nathan, diabetes chief at Massachusetts General Hospital told the Associated Press, "that's what you want to do."

If doctors take this advice to heart, GSK and Avandia wouldn't be the only ones to suffer. Other newer, more costly meds include Takeda's Actos, Eli Lilly's Byetta, and Merck's Januvia.

- read the AP story