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A third of Americans are considered prediabetic—but many may be better off without treatment

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Channel: Science Magazine
Categories: Biology   |   Health   |   Science  
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The war on ‘prediabetes’ could be a boon for pharma—but is it good medicine?

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Quick summary:

Sweeping diagnosis | In 2004 and 2010, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) expanded the blood sugar range it considers a sign of prediabetes, creating tens of millions of potential patients in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joined the ADA in raising the alarm, portraying the condition as a first step toward frank diabetes.

Little risk | Prediabetes does little or no harm on its own, and fewer than 2% of prediabetics in the ADA range progress to diabetes each year. Many studies suggest that for most people the usual treatments for prediabetes, diet and exercise, do little to further reduce the risk of diabetes.

Strong medicine | Industry is developing at least 10 classes of drugs targeted to prediabetes. The ADA also lists existing diabetes and weight loss drugs as options for people with prediabetes, and doctors are prescribing them “off label.” Many of those drugs can have serious side effects.

Money trails | The ADA and some of its physician advisers who have discussed drug treatments for prediabetes receive extensive financial support from pharmaceutical companies. The organization and its advisers say the payments have not affected their recommendations.


Meagan Cantwell

supervising producer
Sarah Crespi

story by
Charles Piller

story editor
Tim Appenzeller

Chris Burns
Meagan Cantwell

Stephan Schmitz

interview footage
Tracey Quezada Productions

stock images and videos
Noun Project

special thanks to
Marcy Atarod

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