Glycemic control among youth with diabetes is no better today than it was in 2002 and in some subgroups it’s worse, despite increased availability of diabetes technology, newer therapies, and more aggressive recommended blood glucose targets, new research finds.
The sobering data from 6,399 participants in the longitudinal SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study were presented June 15 at the virtual American Diabetes Association 80th Scientific Sessions by Faisal S. Malik, MD, of the University of Washington, Seattle, and Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
“Our finding that current youth and young adults with diabetes are not demonstrating improved glycemic control, compared to earlier cohorts in the SEARCH study was surprising given how the landscape of diabetes management has changed dramatically over the past decade,” Dr. Malik said in an interview.
Urgent need to improve glycemic control in youth with diabetes
The SEARCH study, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the largest and most diverse study of diabetes in youth in the United States. It has over 27,000 participants seen at five study sites in California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington state.
Among youth with type 1 diabetes in the study, average hemoglobin A1c rose from 8.6% in 2002-2007 (n = 3,451) to 8.8% in 2008-2014 (n = 2,254), and remained at 8.8% in 2014-2019 (n = 1,651).
Among those with type 2 diabetes, A1c levels fluctuated from 8.8% (n = 379) to 8.4% (n = 327) to 8.5% (n = 469) in the three time periods, respectively.
By contrast, in 2014 the ADA recommended an A1c of less than 7.5% for youth of all ages with type 1 diabetes, down from prior less stringent targets.
In 2018, the ADA advised A1c levels below 7% for youth with type 2 diabetes. In both cases, targets may be adjusted based on individual circumstances.
A particularly striking data point was seen among youth who had type 2 diabetes for 10 years or more: average A1c skyrocketed from 7.9% in 2008-2013 to 10.1% in 2014-2019. The numbers were small, 25 patients in the earlier cohort and 149 patients in the later, yet the difference was still significant (P < .01). And in those with type 1 diabetes for 5-9 years, average A1c rose from 8.7% in 2002-2007 (n = 769) to 9.2% in 2014-2019 (n = 654) (P < .01).
“These results suggest that not all youth with diabetes are directly benefiting from the increased availability of diabetes technology, newer therapies, and the use of more aggressive glycemic targets for youth with diabetes over time,” Dr. Malik said.
“Recognizing that lower A1c levels in adolescence and young adulthood is associated with lower risk and rate of microvascular and macrovascular complications, this study further underscores the urgent need for effective treatment strategies to improve glycemic control in youth and young adults with diabetes,” he added.
Asked to comment, David M. Maahs, MD, said in an interview that the type 1 diabetes data are “very consistent” with those found in the T1D Exchange registry study but that both datasets include patients seen at diabetes centers and therefore may not represent the entire population.
“I don’t think there’s reason to think we’re actually doing any better than these data indicate,” said Dr. Maahs, professor of pediatrics and division chief of pediatric endocrinology at Stanford (Calif.) University.