Good news, bad news from diabetes gathering

Sobering numbers from the global health front: Diabetes is growing even faster than experts had thought, doubling worldwide over the last 30 years to 350 million cases. In the U.S., the growth rate was even scarier. Case numbers nearly tripled over the same time frame. Good thing, then, that some promising drug data came out of the American Diabetes Association meeting over the weekend.

Novo Nordisk, for instance, presented data showing that its drug Victoza helped cut blood sugar in patients who switched from using Eli Lilly's Byetta or Merck's Januvia. Patients who switched from Januvia also lost "significant" amounts of weight, the study found. Meanwhile, an older generic drug used against tuberculosis showed promise as a treatment for Type 1 diabetes in a small study.

Some not-so-great news, too, however: A 100,000-person study found that Takeda Pharmaceuticals' Actos and GlaxoSmithKline's Avandia both increased the risk of developing diabetic macular edema. Patients at high risk of developing the condition should avoid those two drugs, the study authors said. Given GSK's Avandia has been withdrawn in Europe and severely restricted in the U.S., that may not be too difficult to enforce. And Actos has its own safety issues: A potential link with bladder cancer risk has health officials working to reassess the drug.

Meanwhile, some pricing news. A study found that while Wal-Mart was lowering prices of common generic drugs to bargain-basement levels, it was hiking prices on branded diabetes medicines. Kmart was doing the same. In fact, prices for generic diabetes meds fell by 58 percent between 2008 and 2010, while price tags on branded meds grew by 113 percent at those retailers.

- read the Wall Street Journal article
- see the Reuters news 
- get more from Bloomberg

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