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The Making of Medicine

HIV Drugs Could Prevent Diabetes, Research Suggests

Our Jayakrishna Ambati, MD, has conducted an analysis that suggests drugs already approved to treat HIV and hepatitis B may offer protection from type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a growing health problem worldwide. Nearly 500 million people have it, and the numbers are only going up. It is associated with all sorts of maladies, including heart disease, atherosclerosis, vision loss and nerve  damage.

That has researchers on the hunt for ways to prevent it. Dr. Ambati and colleagues at multiple institutions thought one possibility might be a class of drugs known as nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs).

So they analyzed five patient databases encompassing a diverse group of 128,861 patients with HIV-1 or hepatitis B. They found that patients taking NRTIs were more than 33% less likely to develop diabetes.

Based on their work, the researchers predict there is a 95% chance that the drugs would reduce diabetes risk by 29% in a clinical trial. And they suspect the drugs could be beneficial for two other major conditions as well.

“The large scale of these clinical data and the size of the protective effect provide evidence that inflammasome inhibition in humans is beneficial,” Dr. Ambati told me. “We are hopeful that prospective clinical trials will establish that inflammasome inhibitors known as Kamuvudines, which are less-toxic derivatives of NRTIs, will be effective not only in diabetes but also in macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.”

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