Study finds cholesterol drug torcetrapib may help control diabetes

NEW YORK — A drug designed to boost high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels also may improve blood-sugar control for diabetics, according to a new analysis of a discontinued study.

Australian researchers found that torcetrapib, a cholesteryl ester transfer protein inhibitor, could improve HDL or "good" cholesterol levels while improving blood-sugar control among diabetics.

Among 6,661 diabetes patients in the Illuminate trial, those that were assigned to take a combination of torcetrapib and a statin saw average blood-sugar control levels of 7.06%, compared with those that received just the statin (7.29%). These figures were recorded during a six-month follow-up. The effects were apparent for up to 12 months, study authors noted.

What's more, torcetrapib also lowered both glucose and insulin levels in the participants without diabetes, although the effects were not as great as in those with diabetes.

“The possibility that CETP inhibitor drugs may not only reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, but may also improve the control of blood sugar in people with diabetes, is an exciting prospect that may translate into real health benefits for people with diabetes,” said the study’s lead author, Philip Barter, a professor of medicine and director of the Heart Research Institute at the University of Sydney in Australia.

It is important to note, however, that torcetrapib touts a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular problems and death, which is why the Illiminate trial was discontinued.

The research was published in the July 18 online issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.

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