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Pain Reliever Lowers Blood Sugar for Type 2 Diabetes

By Serena Gordon

An aspirin-like drug appears to lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, according to new research.

A study of the drug — the prescription pain reliever salsalate — also found it reduced inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes. But it produced unwelcome side effects that could limit its potential as a diabetes treatment.

“This trial is a test of possibly the oldest drug in Western use, and, because it’s so old, there are no clinical trials on it,” said study senior author Dr. Steven Shoelson, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“This trial was for a full year and showed that salsalate does lower blood glucose,” said Shoelson, who is also the associate research director at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

The study, published in the July 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, included 286 people between 18 and 75 years old with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body no longer produces enough of the hormone insulin to convert carbohydrates from food into fuel for the body.

At the start of the study, the participants’ average A1C levels — a measure of blood sugar levels over several months — were between 7 and 9.5 percent. The American Diabetes Association generally recommends a level of below 7 percent for adults.

The study volunteers were randomly assigned to 48 weeks of salsalate at a dose of 3.5 grams per day, or to an inactive placebo pill. No other changes were made to current diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol medications during the first six months of the trial, the researchers noted.

Over 48 weeks, people taking the medication saw their A1C levels drop by 0.37 percent compared to placebo.

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