The drug rosiglitazone, used in the treatment of diabetes, has been shown to help insulin-producing cells in the pancreas recover their function, in addition to improving the body's response to insulin. For people with type 2 diabetes, this means the pancreatic beta cells are able, once again, to secrete a surge of insulin in response to increasing glucose levels. Rosiglitazone, also known as Avandia, is part of the class of drugs known as thiazolidines (TZDs); this group's ability to revitalize pancreatic beta cells makes them a unique diabetic therapy. Researchers compared rosiglitazone with standard insulin treatment in a group of patients with type 2 diabetes. The initial insulin response to glucose increased significantly in the rosiglitazone group, but not in the insulin-treated group. David Bell, MD, and Fernando Ovalle, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine feel these results indicate a necessary change in the standard treatment of type 2 diabetes. According to Dr. Bell, "Instead of being initiated after other oral agents have failed, TZDs should be initiated at the earliest possible time?when there is maximal beta cell function? that is, when diabetes is diagnosed."
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.