OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of nateglinide and metformin alone and in combination in type 2 diabetic patients inadequately controlled by diet, focusing on changes in HbA1c, fasting plasma glucose (FPG), and mealtime glucose excursions. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: In this randomized double-blind study, patients with an HbA1c level between 6.8 and 11.0% during a 4-week placebo run-in received 24 weeks' treatment with 120 mg nateglinide before meals (n = 179), 500 mg metformin three times a day (n = 178), combination therapy (n = 172), or placebo (n = 172). HbA1c and FPG were evaluated regularly, and plasma glucose levels were determined after Sustacal challenge at weeks 0, 12, and 24. Hypoglycemia and other adverse events were recorded. RESULTS: At study end point, HbA1c was reduced from baseline with nateglinide and metformin but was increased with placebo (-0.5, -0.8, and +0.5%, respectively; P < or = 0.0001). Changes in FPG followed the same pattern (-0.7, -1.6, and +0.4 mmol/l; P < or = 0.0001). Combination therapy was additive (HbA1c -1.4% and FPG -2.4 mmol/l; P < or = 0.01 vs. monotherapy). After Sustacal challenge, there was a greater reduction in mealtime glucose with nateglinide monotherapy compared with metformin monotherapy or placebo (adjusted area under the curve [AUC]0-130 min -2.1, -1.1, and -0.6 mmol x h(-1) x l(-1); p < or = 0.0001). An even greater effect was observed with combination therapy (AUC0-130 min -2.5 mmol x h(-1) x l(-1); P < or = 0.0001 vs. metformin and placebo). All regimens were well tolerated. CONCLUSIONS: Nateglinide and metformin monotherapy each improved overall glycemic control but by different mechanisms. Nateglinide decreased mealtime glucose excursions, whereas metformin primarily affected FPG. In combination, nateglinide and metformin had complementary effects, improving HbA1c, FPG, and postprandial hyperglycemia.

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