May 22, 2009

Cholesterol Drug Lowers Risk Of Amputation For Diabetics

A new analysis of research has found that the anti-cholesterol drug fenofibrate appears to reduce risks of amputation for diabetics by as much as 36 percent, Reuters reported.

Researchers in Australia, Finland and New Zealand studied almost 10,000 patients aged 50 to 75 with type 2 diabetes.

Half of the test subjects were given fenofibrate, while the other half received placebos. The study noted that 115 patients had at least one lower limb amputation because of diabetes after five years.

Amputation is sometimes necessary for patients whose diabetes severely damages nerves and blood vessels. About one diabetes patient in 10 loses part of a leg.

The first fenofibrate study was published in 2005, in which it found that the disease did not prevent heart disease. But the new study found that patients on fenofibrate had a 36 percent lower risk of a first amputation than those on placebo.

The group taking fenofibrate had a nearly 50 percent lower risk of minor amputations"”those below the ankle"”in patients without large vessel disease.

The risk of a major amputation"”above the ankle"”was not substantially different between the two groups, although taller people were also more likely to suffer amputations.

Many doctors switched to statins to cut their patients' heart disease risks and dropped fenofibrates after the study's first results.

The study's results were published Friday in the medical journal Lancet.

Sergio Fazio of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who co-authored an accompanying commentary in the Lancet, said fenofibrates might be re-entering the game.

"Fenofibrates cannot possibly take the place of statins, but they may earn a place next to them in diabetes treatment," he said.

Anthony Keech of the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia and one of the paper's authors, said fenofibrate is the first therapy that has been shown to reduce these amputations.

The findings could change the standard treatment for avoiding amputations, the authors said.


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