Experts amazed by poor response to diabetes plan

February 28, 1994|By New York Times News Service

Six months ago, the nation's diabetes experts made a sensational announcement. By following a strict medical regimen, they said, diabetics can measurably slow the onset and maybe even avert the dire complications of the disease.

The threat of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack or amputation, they proclaimed, could be greatly reduced or virtually eliminated.

Diabetes centers across the nation geared up for an onslaught of patients wanting to begin the new treatment. They hired more staff, put in extra telephone lines, prepared educational materials and ordered the home monitoring devices that would allow diabetics to test their blood sugar from four to 10 times a day.

The blood sugar tests are a crucial part of the tight-control regimen that the study, which followed 1,441 patients with Type I diabetes for nine years, found to be clearly beneficial to diabetics.

The response was, to say the least, disappointing.

"I thought once there was incontrovertible data proving people can slow complications, everyone would want to do it," said Dr. Philip Raskin, a leading diabetes expert at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas. "I am shocked at the resistance, even from physicians."

Some experts suggest that perhaps many of the most committed diabetics were already in tight-control programs, which in one form or another have been around for about a decade.

But others say that the daily regimen required for success in such a program is daunting and may discourage people.

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