NEW ORLEANS (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Treatment options for patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus have increased markedly post metformin therapy, results from a long-term study suggests. However, the proportion of patients who have maintained a hemoglobin A1c level of less than 7% has remained steady since 2008.

“It would seem that further research and guidance for personalized treatment pathways is needed to help patients achieve optimal diabetes control,” lead study author Victoria Higgins said at the annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association.

Ms. Higgins, franchise director at Adelphi Real World, Cheshire, United Kingdom, presented data from the Adelphi Real World Diabetes Disease Specific Program , a cross-sectional, observational study of patients with type 2 diabetes in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Patients were older than 18 years of age with a confirmed diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and were prescribed at least one antidiabetic drug and/or insulin. Data were collected from the second quarter of 2000 to the second quarter of 2015, gleaned from face-to-face interviews with 3,555 diabetes specialists and 5,109 primary care physicians (PCPs) and completion of physician-reported forms from consultations with patients with type 2 diabetes. Ms. Higgins reported data from 70,657 patients. Of these, 38,489 consulted with a PCP, while 32,168 consulted with a diabetes specialist.

The researchers found that between 2000 and 2015, the number of PCPs who indicated that they would introduce insulin at an HbA1c level less than 8% fell from 24% to 7%, while among diabetes specialists, it fell from 34% to 7%. In addition, a similar proportion of respondents said they would introduce insulin at an HbA1c of 9% or higher in 2015 (42% of PCPs and 39% of diabetes specialists), than in 2004 (36% of PCPs and 24% of diabetes specialists). The introduction of new therapies – such as DPP-4, and more recently GLP-1 and SGLT2 agents – affected treatment patterns over the time period studied. “The main treatment is noninsulin only, but among specialists, a higher prevalence of patients are on noninsulin plus insulin, as well as insulin only,” Ms. Higgins said. “Also interesting to see is there are still some type 2 diabetics who are still on diet and exercise only.” (In 2015, the proportion on a diet and exercise only–regimen was 10% of patients who consulted with primary care physicians and 6% of patients who consulted with diabetes specialists.)

Between 2000 and 2015, the mean number of drugs per patient rose from 1.4 to 1.7 among those who consulted with PCPs, while the mean number of drugs per patient rose from 1.6 to 2.1 among those who consulted with diabetes specialists. A metformin-only regimen is used more often by PCPs than by diabetes specialists, moving toward a higher polypharmacy among the specialists.

Ms. Higgins and her colleagues also found that while there were improvements in HbA1c levels between 2000 and 2008, there has not been any substantial improvement in HbA1c since that time. In 2008, 40% of patients who consulted with PCPs achieved an HbA1c level of less than 7%, compared with 39% of those who consulted with diabetes care specialists. In 2015, those percentages were 50% and 36%, respectively. Ms. Higgins reported having no financial disclosures.