In addition, 31 percent experienced a reduced rate of thickening of the carotid artery, which is a vessel that supplies blood to the brain

Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and seven other collaborating centers have led a trial that demonstrates a pill that prevents type 2 diabetes in those high at risk. 

Ralph DeFronzo, M.D., study leader and professor in the School of Medicine and chief of the diabetes division at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, along with Robert Henry, M.D., president of the American Diabetes Association, have conducted a trial to show a pill that is capable of preventing type 2 diabetes in people who are high at risk due to obesity or their ethnicity and other markers. Type 2 diabetes is caused by abnormalities associated with insulin, which is secreted by beta cells in the pancreas. The body is insulin resistant when type 2 diabetes is present, meaning that the body is unable to store and use sugar from food and beta cells begin to die as time goes by. Currently, 40 million Americans are pre-diabetic. 

The pill is called pioglitazone, and it is marketed as Actos® by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., which gave DeFronzo an independent investigator grant in order to conduct the study. Pioglitazone is an insulin sensitizer for those with type 2 diabetes, which works by stimulating appetite and shifting fat from from the liver, muscles, and beta cells into subcutaneous "fat depots" under the skin where it is not harmful.

The study, which was called the ACT Now study, consisted of 602 test subjects that had a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They were instructed to take the pill once a day in the morning. 

According to results, 72 percent of participants benefitted from the pill and did not develop type 2 diabetes. In addition, 31 percent experienced a reduced rate of thickening of the carotid artery, which is a vessel that supplies blood to the brain. 

"It's a blockbuster study," said DeFronzo. "The 72 reduction is the largest decrease in the conversion rate of pre-diabetes to diabetes that has ever been demonstrated by any intervention, be it diet, exercise or medication."

According to Robert Chilton, D.O., FACC, a University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio cardiologist, the pill controlled participants' glucose and prevented blood vessel damage that can cause heart attacks and strokes. 

The side effects of pioglitazone are weight gain and fluid retention, but DeFronzo said these can be avoided by taking lower doses. He has admitted that the drug hasn't been perfected quite yet, but it improves insulin resistance and beta cell function, which makes the pill an excellent first step to treating and preventing diabetes successfully.

"The drug shows outstanding results," said Henry. "It is the most efficacious method we have studied to date to delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes." 

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