Done with diabetes: No meds, no surgery

FRESNO, Calif.

A couple of years ago, Gale Johnson got a diagnosis she feared would come -- type 2 diabetes.

"I have a list of medications that I take," Gale told ABC30.

Patients like Gale might not need meds at all. Doctors at Washington University are studying the EndoBarrier for type2 diabetes.

"It's essentially doing the same kind of thing that you would get from surgery," Shelby Sullivan, MD, Gastroenterologist, Washington University in St. Louis, told ABC30.

Doctors insert the plastic-like device through a tube, passed through the mouth and stomach into the first part of the small intestines. When food passes, the EndoBarrier forms a barrier between it and digestive enzymes in the intestine. Researchers believe the device may also alter hormone signals in the digestive tract.

"It's affecting metabolism in a way that it's improving diabetes," Dr. Sullivan said.

The device is already approved in Europe, Australia, Chile, and Israel, but is still in clinical trials in the U.S. In previous studies, patients experienced a weight loss of about 20 percent and improved their hemoglobin A1c levels by two points.

"That helps a diabetic because it's getting their blood sugar under control. So, it actually may help them get off medication," Dr. Sullivan said.

Currently, the device is being placed in patients for just one year and is then taken out. However, Dr. Sullivan says the patients previously studied still saw long-term effects even after it was removed. Risks are extremely rare, but include poking a hole in the small intestine and blockages in the intestines.

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