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Study: Insulin treatment 'not best' for older patients

For older people with type-2 diabetes, the downsides of taking medication outweigh the benefits, researchers have claimed. 

A study from researchers at University College London (UCL) found that for many people the benefits of taking diabetes medication as so small they are outweighed by the harms. 

The benefit of treatment declines with age, and by 75 the harms of most treatments are likely to outweigh any potential benefits, the researchers explained in JAMA Internal Medicine. 

Of the 3.2 million people in the UK who have been diagnosed with type-2, more than 250,000 inject insulin every year, and 850,000 receive oral diabetes medication metformin. 

The report found that through treatment an average 45-year-old who dropped their blood sugar levels by 1% would gain ten months of healthy life. 

However, a 75-year-old starting treatment would only gain three weeks of health life. 

Co-author of the paper, Professor John S Yudkin said: “In many cases, insulin treatment may not do anything to add to the person's quality life expectancy. 

“If people feel that insulin therapy reduces their quality of life by anything more than around 3%-4%, this will outweigh any potential benefits gained by treatment in almost anyone with type 2 diabetes over around 50 years old.”

The study [paywalled] is available to view on the JAMA website