Health Beat: Done with diabetes: No medication — no surgery

Health Beat: Done with diabetes: No medication — no surgery

ST. LOUIS - More than one-third of adults in the United States are obese, and more than 23 million have type 2 diabetes. Now, there's a treatment that could fight both of these common health problems.

A couple years ago, Gale Johnson got a diagnosis she feared would come — type 2 diabetes.

"I have a list of medications that I take," Johnson said.

Patients like Johnson might not need medication at all. Doctors at Washington University are studying the EndoBarrier for type 2 diabetes.

"It's essentially doing the same kind of thing that you would get from surgery," said Dr. Shelby Sullivan, gastroenterologist, Washington University in St. Louis.

Doctors insert the plastic-like device through a tube, passed through the mouth and stomach into the first part of the small intestines.  When food passes, the EndoBarrier forms a barrier between it and digestive enzymes in the intestine. Researchers believe the device may also alter hormone signals in the digestive tract.

"It's affecting metabolism in a way that it's improving diabetes," Sullivan said.

The device is already approved in Europe, Australia, Chile and Israel, but is still in clinical trials in the U.S. In previous studies, patients experienced a weight loss of about 20 percent and improved their hemoglobin  A1c levels by two points.

"That helps a diabetic because it's getting their blood sugar under control. So, it actually may help them get off medication," Sullivan said.

Currently, the device is being placed in patients for just one year and is then taken out. Sullivan, however, said the patients previously studied still saw long-term effects even after it was removed. Risks are extremely rare, but include poking a hole in the small intestine and blockages in the intestines.

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