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September 1, 2009

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Spit's official - lizards to the rescue in type 2 diabetes war

A DRUG containing lizard saliva to help treat people with type 2 diabetes will be available in many major hospitals around the nation from late this month, a treatment forum was told in Shanghai yesterday.

About 2,000 domestic patients will receive a six-month supply of free dosage samples of the drug, with the trademark name Byetta.

All big hospitals in the city are involved in the project.

Byetta is derived from a chemical found in the saliva of the gila monster, a venomous lizard native to the southwest of the United States and northern Mexico.

The drug was marketed in the US in 2005, went on sale in Europe in 2006 and is available in about 60 countries and regions.

"It is a new medication for type 2 diabetes," Dr Yang Wenying, director of the inner-secretion department of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing told the forum in Jin Mao Tower.

"Target patients are those who don't respond well to oral medicine but who don't require insulin treatment."

The medication works by stimulating insulin secretion in response to high levels of blood sugar. It also inhibits glucagon, a hormone that increases blood sugar.

Type 2 diabetes, often called non-insulin-dependent diabetes, is the more common form of the disease.

Type 1 diabetes patients must inject insulin because their bodies can't produce it.

People with type 2 diabetes do not produce enough insulin or their bodies don't use the insulin adequately.

Type 2 diabetes is usually associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.

According to the Ministry of Health, there are about 20 million of diabetes patients on China's mainland and this number will grow to 60 million in 2025.

About 93 percent of diabetes in the nation is type 2.

Byetta is taken by injection through a pen-injection device, according to the maker, Eli Lilly and Co.


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