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Bhavesh Patel consider recent studies providing a potential reversal cure for type 2 diabetes and the implications for patients and the NHS.
After reading about the shocking news that some people on the London Underground had recently been handed ‘fat cards’ trying to shame them into losing weight and save NHS resources, I then came across an article in The Telegraph today about how losing less than one gram from the pancreas (the organ which regulates blood sugar levels) could potentially cure type 2 diabetes, often associated with obesity, which in the long term if successful would substantially reduce costs for the NHS.
Scientists at Newcastle University examined 18 obese individuals with type 2 diabetes, all of whom had undergone weight loss (gastric band) surgery. During the trial the individuals were put on a restricted diet and lost around 0.6 grams of fat from their pancreas, allowing the organ to secrete normal levels of insulin, which in effect, reversed the disease.
On the basis of this research, the critical factor in reversing type 2 diabetes seems to be losing just that one gram from the pancreas, however this in itself will not remove the other health risks associated with being overweight such as heart disease and high blood pressure so it is imperative that an overall method for weight loss is considered.
Diabetes UK report that over 3.3 million people in the UK are affected by type 2 diabetes, which is currently costing the NHS millions of pounds every year, and the numbers are presently growing. If this disease can be reversed by for example, by undergoing weight loss surgery, then surely in the long term, this would save the NHS a large proportion of their annual costs.
Ideally weight loss is achieved through diet and exercise, but where this fails or is ineffective, weight loss surgery is often considered.
As with any surgery however, individuals should be aware that there are risks involved and we have written about this previously. The Clinical Negligence Team includes a niche team of solicitors who have acted for a number of patients who have suffered serious injuries following weight loss surgery as a result of negligence. The issues encountered include when the surgery has been carried out by non-specialist surgeons, or failing to ensure proper assessment of the patient and suitability for the surgery accordingly. Complications from this surgery can be very serious and lead to patients requiring even more treatment.
Whilst the recent research seems positive for patients and the NHS if it can lead to a breakthrough in treatment for type 2 diabetes, if more patients will potentially be offered and undergo weight loss surgery then it will be vital to ensure that this surgery is only carried out by surgeons with specific expertise and that patients are fully and adequately assessed for their suitability.