A McMaster University study involving more than 12,500 people in 40 countries over a six year period has discovered that long-term insulin use does not pose a risk to people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. The study also determined that use of the hormone does not put diabetic long-term insulin users at greater risk of cancer, strokes, or heart attacks.
These results run contrary to previously held concerns about the supposedly hazardous coronary effects of long-term insulin use. Dr. Hertzel Gerstein, professor of medicine at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, deputy director of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences and chief investigator of the study commented that “people have been debating the question of whether there are adverse consequences to long-term insulin use for years” continuing, “this study provides the clearest answer yet to that question: no, there are not.”
Earlier this week Gerstein outlined the results of the ORIGIN (Outcome Reduction with an Initial Glargine Intervention) study at the scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association in Philadelphia. The findings have also been published in two papers in the prominent medicinal publication the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
Another significant discovery made by the study is that individuals with pre-diabetes who received basal insulin injections with insulin glargine on a daily basis had a 28 per cent lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes, even after the discontinuation of the injections.
Dr. Salim Yusuf, professor of medicine and director of the Population Health Research Institute, jointly led the study with Dr. Gerstein. The study also officially confirmed the presence of two previously suspected side effects of insulin – hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and minor weight gain.
The impact of the research’s discoveries cannot be overstated: more than nine million Canadians – almost a full third of the entire population – have diabetes or pre-diabetes. The importance of understanding the effects of treating this disease, then, are of obvious importance.
“We now know what the risks are of taking insulin on a long-term basis, and they are low,” Dr. Gerstein concluded.