Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- If you have diabetes, you have the chance to make history, and the opportunity to get your blood sugar under control with free medications.

This is possible because New Orleans is one of the test sites for a large, national study.

There's a high rate of type 2 diabetes in southeast Louisiana, and when blood sugar is uncontrolled, consequences are deadly. So your doctor may have prescribed a popular medication to help manage your diabetes.

'We know a drug called Metformin is very effective as first line treatment. However, Metforman fails very often. At the end of five to 10 years, most people on Metformin need additional medications,' explained Dr. Vivian Fonseca, chief of endocrinology at Tulane and past president of the American Diabetes Association.

He underscores too that lifestyle, meaning diet and exercise, are important as well for controlling blood sugar levels.

Dr. Fonseca said there are a handful of other classes of medications that are used with Metformin to help manage diabetes, but doctors often randomly choose which one you will use.

But now The National Institutes of Health is running a large five-year study at Tulane and 36 other sites in the U.S. Doctors hope to gather hard evidence on which combination of medications is best for different patients.

'It's never really been studied head-to-head between them, so GRADE is a comparative effectiveness study. This is really what people have been asking for, is to compare treatments for their effectiveness,' said Dr. Fonseca.

All of the diabetes medications and insulin in the study are already approved and on the market. If you qualify for the GRADE study, your medications will be free, as well as your exams and sugar testing kits. You'll still see your primary care doctor, but you'll also get to see diabetes specialists. You'll even get travel costs to appointments.

'We hope that it will help answer a very important dilemma we have in diabetes,' said Dr. Fonseca. 'We will be able at the end of that time, determine who's getting what kind of treatment, and has a good outcome, which is the better of these medications, what are the side effects of these medications, and help us in the future to choose treatment in a more rational way. We are testing a lot of parameters to try and predict who responds to what treatment. I think it's going to give us some very exciting answers.'

If you're taking Metformin but your diabetes is not completely controlled, you could qualify for the GRADE study. Call 504-988-0200 for more or click here

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