In August, Bristol-Myers Squibb released an improved version of their popular diabetes pill, Glucophage. The new medication called Glucovance combines Glucophage with another well known glucose lowering medication, glyburide. Glyburide is also marketed under the brand name Micronase. Glyburide is a member of the class of drugs known as sulfonylureas which also includes, Glucotrol (glipizide), and Amaryl (glimepiride) while Glucophage is the only available drug in the class of biguinides. Glucovance offers a one-two punch on high blood sugar by joining the unique effects of its two components drugs into a single, even more powerful combination. Studies show that two thirds (66%) of diabetics will achieve excellent control of their blood sugars as defined by the American Diabetes Association (a glycohemoglobin A1c level of 7% or less), when using Glucovance. Since lower doses of Glucophage and glyburide are used in the combination pill then when used individually, there have been less side-effects, as well. It should be noted that although hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is generally not seen when taking Glucophage alone, due to the additive effect of glyburide, hypoglycemia is possible when using Glucovance.

How does this new drug achieve such impressive results? Type 2 diabetes, which comprises about 90% of all diabetes in the U.S., is caused by a lack of the glucose regulating hormone, insulin, as well as a resistance by the body to the effects of whatever insulin is in the blood. Glyburide increases the production of insulin by the pancreas and Glucophage restores the body’s normal sensitivity to the insulin, thereby simultaneously reversing both of the major metabolic abnormalities that cause diabetes.

Cynical health care consumers will snicker, “Sure it’s a great drug. If you can afford it!!” Believe it or not, Glucovance is actually cheaper than purchasing the two component drugs separately, and is about the same price as Glucophage alone. You therefore get the second medication, glyburide, for free. For that reason cost conscious managed care organizations and HMO’s are lining up to put Glucovance on their formularies.

Glucovance is now approved to be used by itself as “first line” diabetes treatment, for those not controlled with either Glucophage or sulfonylurea alone, or can replace both medications if the patient is already using them in combination.

Only you and your doctor can decide which of the available diabetes drugs will be best for you. Be sure to visit your health care provider to learn more about this exciting new addition to diabetes treatment.

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