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A drug that's used to help control blood sugar in people with diabetes has now been shown to help prevent or slow kidney disease, which causes millions of deaths each year and requires hundreds of thousands of people to use dialysis to stay alive.
Doctors say it's hard to overstate the importance of this study and what it means for curbing this problem, which is growing because of the obesity epidemic.
The study tested Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ drug Invokana (canagliflozin). Results were discussed Sunday at a medical meeting in Australia and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
About 30 million Americans and more than 420 million people worldwide have diabetes, and most cases are type 2, the kind tied to obesity. It occurs when the body can't make enough or properly use insulin, which turns food into energy.
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This can damage the kidneys over time, causing disease and, ultimately, organ failure. In the U.S., it's responsible for nearly half a million people needing dialysis and for thousands of kidney transplants each year.
The new study tested Invokana, a daily pill sold now to help control blood sugar, to see if it also could help prevent kidney disease.
About 13,000 people with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease from around the world were to be given Invokana or dummy pills. Independent monitors stopped the study early, after 4,400 people had been treated for about 2.5 years on average, when it was clear the drug was helping.
Those on the drug had a 30 percent lower risk of one of these problems — kidney failure, need for dialysis, need for a kidney transplant, death from kidney- or heart-related causes, or other signs that kidneys were failing.