Health Team

Diabetes study aims to take guesswork out of medications

A UNC study is evaluating the effectiveness of four different classes of federally approved medications for type 2 diabetes.

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Ortez Morris, 42, was in a car accident last summer and required medical attention, including a blood test.

“They did my blood sugar levels, and that's when I was informed that I had diabetes,” he said.

Morris has Type 2, the most common form of the disease that affects nearly 26 million Americans. It’s a chronic condition in which the body does not properly process sugar, and it can lead to numerous complications, including blindness, amputations and death.

Most patients need medication to control their blood sugar. The first line of treatment is typically a medication called metformin. Eventually, most patients, including Morris, need a second drug.

“Physicians and prescribers aren’t really sure which one is the best to use to add onto the metformin,” said Dr. Sue Kirkman, an endocrinologist with UNC Hospitals.

Kirkman hopes that question will be answered through a new national trial called the GRADE study, or “Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness Study.” It will evaluate the effectiveness of four different classes of federally approved medications in thousands of patient outcomes.

Kirkman said the study looks at how well the medications lower blood sugar and the side effects, including whether patients gain weight or lose energy.

In the study, Morris was randomly chosen to receive injectible insulin.

The results won't be known until the year 2020. By then, doctors hope prescribing diabetes medications will involve less guesswork and more long-term success in controlling the disease.

Patients interested in enrolling in the study can contact the UNC Diabetes Care Center in Durham by calling 919-957-5693 or emailing




Allen Mask, M.D., Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
Angie Basiouny, Web Editor

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