new treatment for Type 2 diabetes has shown exceptional promise for helping African-Americans treat and manage the illness.
In trials of Victoza, a medication injected just once a day, diabetes patients have been able to reduce and maintain blood sugar at a medically ideal level and also precipitated weight loss – addressing a key issue among many diabetics who are overweight or obese.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity to treat diabetes in a holistic manner,” said Dr. Anthony Cannon, section chief of endocrinology at the Robert Wood Johnson Endocrinology and Diabetes Associates.
Cannon was a consultant who conferred with 35 other endocrinologists on pre-clinical assessments of Victoza before it won FDA approval. He is also a member of the American Diabetes Association’s African-American Initiative Committee, which works to reduce and prevent diabetes in the black community, and he made a presentation at the National Medical Association convention last month in Orlando to present the findings on Victoza.
African-Americans are 1.4 times more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. In the 65-74 age group, Cannon said, the risk is two-fold.
And while a variety of diabetes medications have been available for quite some time, the added benefit of weight loss spurred by Victoza is a quantum leap in treatment, particularly for African-Americans.
“Eighty percent of these patients, across all cultures and across socio-economic groups, are overweight or obese with Type 2 diabetes,” Cannon told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “A disproportionate amount of African-Americans are overweight or obese as well.”
But Cannon cautioned that Victoza is not a cure-all. Patients still must pay attention to diet and exercise.
“The first treatment of choice is to prevent the disease, a chronic disease like Type 2 diabetes. So I tell patients to make sure you know your hemoglobin levels number,” to determine whether you are diabetic or in a pre-diabetic condition. The ideal number for people with diabetes is about 7 percent. At that level, diabetics have a better chance of delaying or preventing diabetes problems, including eye problems, and issues with kidneys and nerves.
“Instead of saying diet and exercise, we use the medical and nutritional model,” Cannon added. “Just hearing the words ‘diet and exercise’ makes patients exhausted, so we talk about portion control; we talk about healthy eating … healthy lifestyles. It’s really allowing people to try diet plans in keeping with their cultural habits.”
For instance, patients will be given recommendations on alternative recipes for such dishes as collard greens and meats, so that they are not denying themselves traditional foods, but preparing them in healthier ways.
For an overweight patient, losing as much as 10 to 20 percent of body mass can have a dramatic effect on the development and extent of diabetes.
Cannon said diabetes patients should also discuss treatment plans with their doctors to determine whether Victoza is a viable option.
“What we see as endocrinologists, across the board, is our patients are not proactive with their doctors. They don’t get around to being their own best advocate. They should ask their primary care physician more questions about diabetes,” Cannon maintained.
He said Victoza appears to be especially effective when taken in the early stages of diabetes, when blood sugars have not been poorly managed, and that the drug works well in concert with Metformin and other oral agents.
Victoza has not been studied for use with children and is not advised for women who are pregnant or those with a predisposition to pancreatitis – an inflammation of the pancreas.
It is primarily intended for elderly and near-elderly patients.
The ADA’s African-American Initiative is focused on prevention and working with youth to make better food choices.
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