Newer drugs may be less effective at treating type 2 diabetes than older options

In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have touted their new type 2 diabetes drugs as significant breakthroughs that could lead to much better control of the disease. However, a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University recently found that older, less expensive medications may be just effective and carry a lower risk of side effects.

For a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the team compared metformin, a medication that first approved by the FDA in 1995, to newer classes of drugs that were expected to improve the treatment of diabetics. In particular, they looked at two-drug combination therapies, which have grown increasingly common in recent years.

After reviewing the results of more than 166 previously published studies of metformin and newer classes of drugs, the researchers found that metformin was equally as effective at controlling blood sugar levels.

Additionally, it presented fewer side effects. Some of the new medications carried the risk of increased cholesterol levels and weight gain, which can be particularly troubling among individuals with type 2 diabetes, as they are already at a higher risk of developing heart disease.

Given the fact that metformin is less expensive than the newer options, the researchers said that it appears to be the best option for most people who have diabetes.

"Metformin works for most people. It's cheaper, there's a generic form - it's tried and true," said Wendy L. Bennett, who led the investigation. "Our study shows that even though there are all these newer drugs, metformin works just as well and has fewer side effects."

She added that the findings could help inform the decisions of the millions of people who have type 2 diabetes concerning their treatment.