By Daniel J. DeNoon
Calming fears raised by smaller studies, a major clinical trial finds that long-term insulin use does not increase risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, or death.
That’s good news for people with diabetes who use insulin to keep their blood sugar under control.
The study, dubbed ORIGIN, enrolled 12,537 people over age 50 with prediabetes or early diabetes. Half immediately got insulin — long-acting insulin glargine, brand name Lantus. The other half got standard care.
The good news for people taking insulin is that after six years, they had no more cancers, strokes, heart attacks, or deaths. They had better blood-sugar control than the standard-care group. Despite a little weight gain, the insulin group had a lower risk of new-onset diabetes.
On the other hand, the standard-care group had pretty darn good blood-sugar control. Taken as a whole, the study does not suggest a change in standard therapy for people in the early stages of rising blood sugar.
What it does suggest is that long-term insulin treatment is a good option for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Insulin’s anti-diabetes effect reduces risk of heart attack and stroke. It does not add a direct heart-risk-lowering effect.
The study also looked at whether taking 1-gram omega-3 fatty acid supplements lowered heart risk. In these patients at high risk of heart disease, it did not.