Which medicines work most effectively for diabetic neuropathy?

What treatments can improve pain and quality of life?

This comprehensive report was first published in April 2017 by Diabetes in Control and discusses what old and new medicines work for diabetic neuropathy and importantly which ones don’t.

Pharmaceutical Products and Drugs
Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve disorder that the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney disease estimates affects about 60 to 70% of diabetic patients in some form, with the highest rates of neuropathy occurring in patients who have had diabetes for over 25 years.

Although diabetic neuropathy can affect almost any organ in the body, the most common type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy, which is often worse at night, results in tingling, numbness, and pain occurring in the hands, arms, fingers, legs, feet, and toes.

The best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy is keeping glucose under control and maintaining a healthy weight, but for those who experience this painful condition, finding the best relief can often be difficult and confusing.
Building upon a previously published study from 2014, a new systemic review was conducted to “systemically assess the effect of pharmacological treatments of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) on pain and quality of life” plus a search of PubMed and Cochrane Database of systemic reviews (reviews from 2011 – March 2016).
A total of 106 randomized controlled trials were used in the final systemic review, including trials analyzed by the previously published study. Only two medications, duloxetine and venlafaxine, had a moderate strength of evidence (SOE) compared to the low strength of evidence found with the remaining 12 study medications. As a class, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) was found to be an effective treatment for diabetic neuropathy with the most commonly reported adverse effects of dizziness, nausea, and somnolence. Venlafaxine and tricyclic antidepressants were also determine to be effective at relieving pain compared to placebo using the previous analysis’ data.

Pregabalin was determined to be effective at reducing pain compared to placebo but found to have a low SOE due to the inclusion of four unpublished studies causing potential bias. Pregabalin, as well as the other anticonvulsants included, had adverse effects of dizziness, nausea, and somnolence.

Oxcarbazepine was also found to be an effective neuropathy pain reliever compared to placebo.
Atypical opioids have a dual mechanism of action, norepinephrine reuptake inhibition and mu antagonism, which aids in a class wide effective pain relief compared to placebo, and more specifically tramadol and tapentadol were found to be effective vs placebo. The most common adverse effects reported for opioids were constipation, somnolence, and nausea.

The last medication that was determined to be an effective pain reliever of diabetic neuropathy compared to placebo was botulinum toxin

Gabapentin, using five randomized controlled trials, was determined at two different doses to be ineffective at treating pain when compared to placebo. Other agents that were determined to be ineffective treatments for diabetic neuropathy were typical opioids (oxycodone), topical capsaicin 0.075%, dextromethorphan, and mexiletine.

Practice Pearls:
Pregabalin, oxcarbazepine, and tapentadol have shown to be effective vs placebo at relieving pain due to diabetic neuropathy and are also FDA approved for this indication.
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors may be a good choice for relief of diabetic neuropathy pain and have the additional benefit of relieving depression that is commonly associated with diabetic neuropathy
Additional studies are needed to assess long-term pain relief effectiveness.

References:
“Nerve Damage (Diabetic Neuropathies) | NIDDK.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web 05 April 2017
Julie M. Waldfogel, Suzanne Amato Nesbit, Sydney M. Dy, Ritu Sharma, Allen Zhang, Lisa M. Wilson, Wendy L. Bennett, Hsin-Chieh Yeh, Yohalakshmi Chelladurai, Dorianne Feldman, Karen A. Robinson. “Pharmacotherapy for diabetic peripheral neuropathy pain and quality of life”. Neurology, 2017; 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003882 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003882
 
Mark T. Lawrence, RPh, PharmD Candidate, University of Colorado-Denver, School of Pharmacy NTPD

 

 

 

BMJ: Continuity and individualised care matter more to patients than guidelines

old woman walking

By Martin Rowland and Charlotte Paddison
Adapted from article in BMJ 18 May 2013
As the population rises more people are living with multiple medical conditions. These can be diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, depression, cancer, coronary heart disease and dementia among others.

These cause complex health, emotional and social problems which make their management difficult, especially in socioeconomically deprived areas. A new model of care is needed to manage patients optimally in these circumstances.
Although this seems obvious, care seems to be moving in the wrong direction for these patients.
Evidence based guidelines are really geared to patients with single conditions. They don’t cater to someone who has multiple conditions. Over treatment, and overly complex surveillance and assessment routines result. Older, less well educated and less affluent patients cope particularly poorly with these regimes. Guidelines also fail to recognise that patients get more frail as they age. The burdens of illness and treatment are different for a 100 year old compared to a 50 year old.
An individualised regime for each patient needs to be developed to focus on what matters most to each one.
Unfortunately doctors often feel that they can’t deviate from a guideline for fear of criticism and litigation. Perhaps guidelines should only be applied when they are clearly being used in the patient’s best interests, instead of the doctor’s? Exception reporting is a mechanism that allows doctors to deviate from guidelines and maybe should be used more.
Medical training does not as yet focus on this sort of individualised care. Medicine of old age comes the closest.
Listening to patients is the key thing that can help a doctor understand what their needs and goals are. The most appropriate care can then be built around that. The biggest barrier to this seems to be the over emphasis on single conditions.  This prevents rather than enhances goal oriented care.
Longer consultations are needed to help guide patients talk about their needs and think through complex decisions.
Satisfaction and outcomes are improved if this can be achieved. Despite this patients still often complain that they never see the same doctor twice both in hospital and primary care. It is also particularly difficult to provide a good quality of care when a doctor does not  know the patient and does not see the patient for follow up.
Young adults say they want to see the same doctor 52% of the time, but this increases to over 80% in those aged over 75.  More than a quarter of patients however say they struggle to see the doctor of their choice. This seems to be getting worse over time rather than better. Perhaps this is due to nurses taking over a lot of the care regarding chronic illness. Doctors are also increasingly working part time and may be involved in other tasks other than direct patient care. Shift systems in hospitals limit continuity a great deal.
In primary care, advanced access schemes give faster access but at the expense of continuity of care.
Older patients are particularly keen on waiting a few days longer to see the GP of their choice. Booking systems need to allow for both access and continuity.
This can be improved by receptionists attempting to book patients with their “own” doctor rather than simply the first available. Two or three doctors can share lists and try to see each other’s patients if one is not available.  E-mail booking of doctors directly can help. E-mail consultations can help.  Time for these must be built into the working day. The number of doctors who deal with  particularly complex needs may need to be restricted. Monitoring continuity of care can help. What gets monitored tends to get done more often after all.
As guidelines need to become less important for patients with multi-morbidity, a doctor’s clinical judgement becomes more critical.  There can be squads of other health care professionals involved in a patient’s care and deciding what ones are necessary and what ones are not is a useful task.  As the need for the traditional UK General Practitioner is increasing, sadly, their availability and time commitments to patient care seem to be decreasing.

Kris Kresser: Why has the American approach to heart disease failed?

Why Has the American Approach to Heart Disease Failed?
on April 18, 2017 by Chris Kresser 

Tsimane 2

A recent New York Times article correctly suggests that diet and lifestyle changes are far more effective ways to prevent and treat heart disease than statins and stents. But what diet, and what lifestyle? Is it as simple as avoiding “artery-clogging saturated fat,” as the author suggests? Read on to find out why the American approach to heart disease has really failed.
Jane Brody wrote an article in The New York Times called “Learning from Our Parents’ Heart Health Mistakes.” She argues that despite decades of advice to change our diet and lifestyle in order to reduce our risk of heart disease, we still depend far too much on drugs and expensive procedures like stents.
She says:
Too often, the American approach to heart disease amounts to shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped.
To support this argument, she refers to a recent paper published on the Tsimane, an indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon. The study found that the rate of coronary atherosclerosis in the Tsimane was one-fifth of that observed in the United States (and the lowest that has ever been measured). Nearly nine in 10 Tsimane had unobstructed coronary arteries and no evidence of heart disease, and the researchers estimated that the average 80-year-old Tsimane has the same vascular age as an American in his mid-50s.
I certainly agree with Ms. Brody so far, and her analogy that the American approach to heart disease amounts to shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped is spot on.
The problem is what comes next, as she attempts to answer the question of why the Tsimane have so much less heart disease than Americans:
Protein accounts for 14 percent of their calories and comes primarily from animal meats that, unlike American meats, are very low in artery-clogging saturated fat. [emphasis mine]
Does saturated fat “clog” your arteries?
Artery-clogging saturated fat? Are we still using that phrase in 2017?
As I’ve written before, on average, long-term studies do not show an association between saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol levels. (1) (I say “on average” because individual response to saturated fat can vary based on genetics and other factors—but this is a subject for another article.)
If you’re wondering whether saturated fat may contribute to heart disease in some way that isn’t related to cholesterol, a large meta-analysis of prospective studies involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease. (2)

Does saturated fat really “clog” your arteries?

Are “clogged arteries” the cause of heart disease?
Moreover, as Peter Attia eloquently and thoroughly described in this article, the notion that atherosclerosis is caused by “clogged arteries” was shown to be false many years ago:
Most people, doctors included, think atherosclerosis is a luminal-narrowing condition—a so-called “pipe narrowing” condition.  But by the time that happens, eleven other pathologic things have already happened and you’ve missed the opportunity for the most impactful intervention to prevent the cascade of events from occurring at all.
To reiterate: atherosclerosis development begins with plaque accumulation in the vessel wall, which is accompanied by expansion of the outer vessel wall without a change in the size of the lumen. Only in advanced disease, and after significant plaque accumulation, does the lumen narrow.
Michael Rothenberg also published an article on the fallacy of the “clogged pipe” hypothesis of heart disease. He said:
Although the image of coronary arteries as kitchen pipes clogged with fat is simple, familiar, and evocative, it is also wrong.
If heart disease isn’t caused by “clogged arteries,” what does cause it?
The answer to that question is a little more complex. For a condensed version, read my article “The Diet-Heart Myth: Why Everyone Should Know Their LDL Particle Number.”

For a deeper dive, read Dr. Attia’s article.
Here’s the 15-second version, courtesy of Dr. Attia:
Atherosclerosis is caused by an inflammatory response to sterols in artery walls. Sterol delivery is lipoprotein-mediated, and therefore much better predicted by the number of lipoprotein particles (LDL-P) than by the cholesterol they carry (LDL-C).
You might think that I’m splitting hairs here over terminology, but that’s not the case. It turns out that this distinction—viewing heart disease as caused by high LDL-P and inflammation, rather than arteries clogged by saturated fat—has crucial implications when it comes to the discussion of how to prevent it.
Because while it’s true that a high intake of saturated fat can elevate LDL particle number in some people, this appears to be a minority of the population. The most common cause of high LDL-P in Americans—and elsewhere in the industrial world—is almost certainly insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. (I explain why in this article.)
And what is one of the most effective ways of treating insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome? That’s right: a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet!
News flash: diets high in saturated fat may actually prevent heart disease.
Perhaps this explains why low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets (yes, including saturated fat) have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
For example, a meta-analysis of 17 low-carb diet trials covering 1,140 obese patients published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that low-carb diets were associated with significant decreases in body weight, as well as improvements in several CV risk factors, including decreases in triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, abdominal circumference, plasma insulin, and C-reactive protein, as well as an increase in HDL cholesterol. (3)
(In case you’re wondering, low-carb diets in these studies had a null effect on LDL cholesterol: they neither increased nor decreased it.)
Saturated fat is a red herring.
Instead of focusing so much on saturated fat intake, which is almost certainly a red herring, why not focus on other aspects of the Tsimane’s diet and lifestyle that might contribute to their low risk of heart disease?

For example:
They are extremely active physically; Tsimane men walk an average of 17,000 steps a day, and Tsimane women walk an average of 15,000 steps a day—and they don’t sit for long periods. Ms. Brody does mention this in her article.
They don’t eat processed and refined foods. We have been far too focused on calories and macronutrient ratios and not enough on food quality. We now know that hunter–gatherers and pastoralists around the world have thrived on both high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets (like the Tsimane, who get 72 percent of calories from carbohydrate) and low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets (like the Masai and Inuit).

But what all hunter–gatherer diets share in common is their complete absence of processed and refined foods.
Perhaps if we stopped focusing so much on the amount of fat and carbohydrate in our diet and started focusing more on the quality of the food we eat, we’d be better off.
And of course we also need to attend to the many other differences between our modern lifestyle (which causes heart disease) and the ancestral lifestyle (which prevents it), including physical activity, sleep, stress, light exposure, play/fun, and social support.
The Tsimane study illustrates exactly why an evolutionary perspective on diet, lifestyle, and behavior is so important. It helps us to generate hypotheses on what aspects of our modern way of life may be contributing to chronic diseases like atherosclerosis and gives us ideas about what interventions we need to make to prevent and reverse these diseases.

BMJ: The PURE Study debunks the sat fat/heart disease hypothesis

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The PURE study: Eating fat is associated with lower cardiovascular disease

From BMJ 9 Sept 17
PURE is a five continent observational study in relation to cardiovascular disease in mortality in almost 150 thousand people. It found that high carbohydrate intake was associated with a higher risk of total mortality whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to a lower total mortality.
Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality, and the more saturated fat people ate the less strokes they had.
Like all observational studies correlation does not necessarily imply causation. The main message however is a series of negatives. There does not seem to be a connection between carbohydrate intake and cardiovascular disease, the association is with all- cause mortality. Perhaps high carbohydrate diets are simply a marker for poverty?
In contrast eating more fat, including saturated fat was associated with lower cardiovascular disease, meaning that we can abandon the saturated fat-cardiovascular disease hypothesis with some certainty.
So, what does “healthy food” look like?
A higher intake of fruit, vegetables and legumes was associated with a lower risk of non-cardiovascular and total mortality at three to four servings a day.
Great, says the author of this piece, Richard Lehman. His dream meal is cannelli beans and tuna salad with lots of olive oil, rib eye steak in butter, a salad, fruit, cheese and strawberries and cream.

 

RCGP: When could it be cancer?

Most_common_cancers_-_female,_by_mortality

The UK cancer survival rates are poorer than in many developed countries. For instance 8.8% of lung cancer patients are alive 5 years after diagnosis compared to 18.4% in Canada. Delayed diagnosis is thought to be one of the factors involved. There are patterns of illness that have increased risk of underlying cancers.

Persistent or recurrent infection

Acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, that are repeatedly given antibiotics and steroids can be due to lung cancer. The common causative factor is cigarette smoking.  Recurrent urine infections being due to bladder cancer is another cause. If the patient had the antibiotics and fully recovered and then relapsed then it is probably another infection, but if they didn’t get better, then the possibility of a new cancer arises.

Constant pain

Musculoskeletal pain tends to vary with time, position and movement. Constant pain can be more sinister. Shoulder pain for instance can be due to a lung cancer in a smoker. Pain, most commonly in the shoulder, lower back and groin can be a presentation of cancer that has already spread.

Unusual age at diagnosis

People are often thought to be too young to be developing certain cancers. There is currently a big increase in the number of under 50s developing bowel cancer. The reason for this is not clear.

In older patients they may get sore heads, gut symptoms and back pain. Sometimes these are diagnosed as migraine, irritable bowel syndrome and muscular back pain.  When these “new” clinical diagnoses are made in older patients it is often best to investigate them with cancer in mind.

Infrequent attenders

People who attend infrequently are more likely to have a serious problem underlying their symptoms.

Negative first line investigations

A chest X ray is often thought to be a good test for example lung cancer. But in lung cancer one in four will not be revealed by a chest X ray and a CT scan will be required. If clinical suspicion persists the GP may need to do further tests.

Safety netting

Making sure all clinical staff such as nurses and phlebotomists as well as doctors safety net appropriately is necessary. Sometimes patients don’t attend for follow up blood tests or they assume their test results are normal when they are not. Follow up arrangements in the practice need to be robust.

Although NICE wants widespread investigation and referral when symptoms could indicate cancer at 1% to 3% of risk, we need to be pragmatic about how this can be done in today’s health service.

Adapted from Improving early diagnosis of cancer in UK general practice by Dr Ian Morgan and Professor Scott Wilkes published in BJGP June 2017.

Statins and diuretics increase diabetes risk

Atorvastatin40mg

People with impaired glucose tolerance are at increased risk of being tipped into diabetes if they take statins or diuretics. Beta blockers have no effect on diabetes risk.

One in 17 will get diabetes when they otherwise wouldn’t on diuretics and one in 12 would be affected with statins. The anti hypertensive beta blockers and calcium channel blockers had no effect.

Based on article in BMJ 4.1.14 on the NAVIGATOR study

Start ’em young

 

kid

 

A survey of UK school children has shown that children as young as nine and ten are already showing signs of markers for type two diabetes.

It is known that the more screen time a child has, whether this is computer games, video games or television, the fatter they get. There is a dose / response effect.

Insulin resistance also increases and also shows a dose / response effect. The surprise is how early the changes occur.

Achiv Dis Child doi:10.1136/archdischild-2016-312016