Gout drug may help prevent diabetes deaths

A DRUG originally developed to treat gout half a century ago may offer fresh hope in helping to prevent the biggest cause of death among people suffering from type-2 diabetes, according to a new study by Scottish researchers.

Scientists from the University of Dundee made the discovery. Picture: Jane Barlow
Scientists from the University of Dundee made the discovery. Picture: Jane Barlow
Scientists from the University of Dundee made the discovery. Picture: Jane Barlow

Around 250,000 people in Scotland have diabetes – one person in every 20. The vast majority suffer from type-2 diabetes which tends to develop later in life and is often linked to an unhealthy lifestyle.

But researchers at Dundee University believe a new study has opened up the possibility of using a cheap anti-gout drug, now more than 50 years old, to help reduce the risk of diabetes patients dying from heart disease and stroke as a result of their conditions.

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Allopurinol, an inexpensive drug which has been used to prevent gout since the 1960s, has been shown to reduce thickening of the heart muscle wall and help cut the risk of future cardiovascular problems which account for 65 per cent of all fatalities in people with diabetes. Dr Jacob George, of Dundee University’s division of cardiovascular and diabetes medicine, said: “Cardiovascular disease is the single biggest cause of death in diabetic patients.

He explained that previous research had looked at patients with coronary artery disease and the benefits afforded to them by allipurinol. “But this is the first time we have looked specifically at people with type-2 diabetes who have heart muscle thickening,” he said.

“As obesity becomes more of an issue in the UK and diabetes becomes more prevalent, this treatment could become an important weapon in improving the cardiovascular outcome in diabetic patients.”

Dr George and his colleagues looked at a sample group of 66 type-2 diabetes patients, half of whom who were given allopurinol and half a placebo for nine months. The results showed that the thickness of the heart muscle wall, measured by cardiac MRI, was “significantly” reduced in the group who took allopurinol

Dr George said “If a larger-scale study backs up these findings then there is reason to be excited about the potential for using allopurinol as a therapy to reduce cardiovascular events in patients with type-2 diabetes. It has been on the market for decades so is cheap and safe.

“This is another piece of the large jigsaw we’ve been putting together over the last 20 years. We have shown that allopurinol has potential in heart failure, coronary artery disease, stroke and now diabetes patients.

“We are building a body of evidence that will allow us to determine whether putting patients on high doses of allopurinol is a realistic way of significantly reducing cardiovascular mortality.”

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.