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Study Reports, Skin Drug Could Help with Type 1 Diabetes

Update Date: Sep 23, 2013 02:50 PM EDT

People with type 1 diabetes must be diligent about taking their medications since their condition could lead to dangerous health situations when left untreated. Even though the current day medications are effective, diabetics might have another treatment option available to them that has the potential to provide better care. According to a small-scale study, a drug that is used to treat a skin condition might be effective in treating some aspects of type 1 diabetes.

The researchers examined the effects of alefacept, which is sold as amevive. This drug use to be prescribed to treat people with the skin disorder, psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system starts to attack healthy skin cells. Type 1 diabetes is also an autoimmune disorder. In 2011, the drug was withdrawn by the manufacturer in the United States. Amevive was never approved in Europe.

For the study, the research team conducted clinical trials of the drug in treating psoriasis. The researchers noted that the drug worked by attacking particular kinds of T-cells. They discovered that the drug also attacked the insulin-producing cells associated with type 1 diabetes. Now, in the new trial, which is currently taking place, researchers believe that the drug will have promising results for diabetics.

The current trial involves 33 patients. The patients had received weekly injections of alefacept for 12 weeks. They then had a break from the medication for 12 weeks before starting another 12 weeks of injections. These patients' results will be compared to 16 other patients who will be following the same schedule with placebo injections.

So far, the researchers have not found any difference in how the body produces insulin within two hours after eating. They did, however, find a difference four hours post eating. The researchers reported that participants who received the drug were better able of preserving insulin. The group receiving the drug also had fewer episodes of hypoglycemia, which is when the body's blood glucose levels drop dangerously low.

"Although the primary endpoint was not met, several key secondary endpoints were significantly different between treatment groups, suggesting that alefacept might preserve pancreas cell function during the first 12 months after diagnosis," the lead researcher, Professor Mark Rigby of Indiana University said according to BBC News.

The trial will continue and the researchers will record more measurements after 18 months and 24 months. The current findings were published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

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