, Volume 52, Issue 7, pp 1219-1226
Date: 17 Apr 2009

Megatrials in type 2 diabetes. From excitement to frustration?

Abstract

Whether glycaemic control may result in a reduction of cardiovascular (CV) risk has been a matter of continuous discussion and investigation. Epidemiological analyses have extensively suggested a relationship between glycaemic control and CV events; however, the results of intervention trials have been less conclusive. The UKPDS reported a 16% reduction in the risk of myocardial infarction, but this reduction was not statistically significant. The results of the Kumamoto and PROactive studies could not allow any firm conclusions to be drawn either, because of limited size and the defined primary endpoint, respectively. The results of the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) and Action in Diabetes and Vascular Disease: Preterax and Diamicron Modified Release Controlled Evaluation (ADVANCE) trials and the Veteran Administration Diabetes Trial (VADT) were published in rapid succession over the second half of 2008 and at the beginning of 2009. A total number of almost 25,000 type 2 diabetic patients were recruited in these three trials, which assessed the effect of intensive glycaemic control vs conventional treatment on well-defined CV endpoints. In spite of the achievement and maintenance of strict glycaemic control (HbA1c <7.0%), no beneficial effect of intensive therapy was apparent in any of the studies. At the same time these results were presented, the results of an analysis of the 10 year follow-up of the UKPDS also became available and provided a more optimistic view of the potential benefit of achieving good glycaemic control. The relative risk reductions for myocardial infarction and all-cause mortality were significantly lower in the patients who initially received the intensive treatment compared with those in the conventional treatment arm. Moreover, the initial benefit in terms of microvascular complications observed at the end of the intervention trial remained unaltered at follow-up. Once again the debate on the importance of glycaemic control in preventing macrovascular complications remains unsettled. These results, however, require some reconciliation, and the objective of this commentary is to analyse a series of elements, including the changes in the treatment approach to CV risk factors in type 2 diabetes, the effect of glucose-lowering agents, and the characteristics of the patients included in the different trials, that should be taken into account when interpreting the results of intervention trials in type 2 diabetes.