The ability of acarbose to lower plasma glucose concentration was studied in 12 patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) who were poorly controlled by diet plus sulfonylurea drugs. Patients were studied before and 3 mo after the addition of acarbose to their treatment program, and a significant improvement in glycemic control was noted. Although the decrease in fasting plasma glucose concentration was modest (12.0 ± 0.8 to 10.8 ± 0.3 mM), average postprandial plasma glucose concentration decreased by 3.4 mM. When acarbose therapy was discontinued in 5 patients, plasma glucose levels rapidly returned toward pretreatment levels. In addition to the improvement in glycemia, acarbose treatment also led to a significant reduction in HbA1c (7.4 ± 0.2 to 6.4 ± 0.2%, P < 0.01) and triglyceride (2.4 ± 0.1 to 2.1 ± 0.1 mM, P < 0.01) concentrations. Neither the plasma insulin response to meals nor insulin-stimulated glucose uptake improved with acarbose therapy, consistent with the view that acarbose improves glycemic control by delaying glucose absorption. Considerable individual variation was noted in the response to acarbose, and the results in 4 patients were dramatic, with striking reductions in both fasting and postprandial glucose concentrations. The addition of acarbose to patients with NIDDM not well controlled by sulfonylureas appears to have significant clinical benefit.

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