Diabetes drugs may have different effects on hearts of men and women

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Washington: A new study has suggested that drugs used for treating type 2 diabetes have different effects on the hearts of men and women.

In particular, the commonly prescribed diabetes drug metformin had positive effects on heart function in women but not in men, who experienced a shift in metabolism thought to increase the risk of heart failure.

According to senior author Robert J. Gropler, MD, professor of radiology, this is the first study to investigate sex differences in the heart's response to diabetes treatments.

"It is imperative that we gain understanding of diabetes medications and their impact on the heart in order to design optimal treatment regimens for patients," Janet B. McGill, MD, the study co-author, said.

The investigators evaluated commonly prescribed diabetes drugs in 78 patients, who were assigned to one of three groups. Under McGill's supervision, the first group received metformin alone; the second received metformin plus rosiglitazone (Avandia); and the third received metformin plus Lovaza, which is a kind of fish oil.

Gropler said the most dramatic difference between men and women is with metformin alone. Their data show it to have a favourable effect on cardiac metabolism in women and an unfavourable one in men.

The research suggested that these divergent responses in men and women may provide at least a partial explanation for the conflicting data surrounding some diabetes drugs. Specifically, the proportion of men and women participating in a clinical trial may play an unappreciated role in whether drugs are found to be safe and effective.

The study is published in the journal Heart and Circulatory Physiology.