UW offers free diabetes treatment to research subjects

SEATTLE -- Type 2 diabetes can have devastating effects on those diagnosed with the chronic condition. But, University of Washington researchers are leading studies that could help people at-risk for or diagnosed with diabetes by offering free treatment.

During the 11 years Dr. Kristina Utzschneider, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington, has been treating people with type 2 diabetes, she has seen patients go blind, loose limbs and develop kidney failure.

"It dramatically impacts their quality of life," Utzschneider said. "Their diabetes has not been treated aggressively enough early on when we know it can reduce the risk of developing these complications."

But, now, Utzschneider is working on a national research project to determine the best treatment available for diabetes patients to prevent serious effects of the disease.

The National Institute of Health has funded the Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness (GRADE) study aimed at determining the best medication combination for diabetes patients. UW researchers are currently recruiting study participants who will receive free treatment, including medication, for seven years. Participants will be managed, evaluated and treated by a research team that specializes in diabetes and can expect more attention than they might typically receive from a diabetes specialist.

"We use the treatments we have in a large part without having compared them head to head," said Dr. Steven Kahn, professor of medicine at UW. "The approach to treatment is very much personalized but not based on solid hard data."

For people who have not been diagnosed with diabetes but are at high risk of developing the disease, Kahn is leading another national study on diabetes prevention measures.

The Restoring Insulin Secretion (RISE) study will consider novel methods to prevent high-risk children and adults from developing diabetes. The study is recruiting patients who have a family history of diabetes, have had diabetes during pregnancy, are obese, have high blood pressure or have a history of gout.

"[Participants are] doing good for the community," Kahn said. "If one treatment could effectively prevent or delay diabetes, that's going to be a huge help"

RISE will include one year of intensive intervention and nine months of follow-up.

GRADE is looking for patients who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes less than five years ago, who are currently being treated with metformin, have a hemoglobin a1c between 6.8 and 8.5 percent, and who are over 30 years old (or Native Americans over 20 years old).

RISE is recruiting participants between 20 and 65 years old with a body mass index over 25 or who have diabetes risk factors. People who have had diabetes for less than one year may also be eligible to participate.

For more information on the GRADE or RISE studies call (206) 277-4013.