Diabetes Rounds

The VA Diabetes Trial: 15-Year Follow-Up

Background

We previously reported that a median of 5.6 years of intensive as compared with standard glucose lowering in 1791 military veterans with type 2 diabetes resulted in a risk of major cardiovascular events that was significantly lower (by 17%) after a total of 10 years of combined intervention and observational follow-up. We now report the full 15-year follow-up.

Methods

We observationally followed enrolled participants (complete cohort) after the conclusion of the original clinical trial by using central databases to identify cardiovascular events, hospitalizations, and deaths. Participants were asked whether they would be willing to provide additional data by means of surveys and chart reviews (survey cohort). The prespecified primary outcome was a composite of major cardiovascular events, including nonfatal myocardial infarction, nonfatal stroke, new or worsening congestive heart failure, amputation for ischemic gangrene, and death from cardiovascular causes. Death from any cause was a prespecified secondary outcome.

Results

There were 1655 participants in the complete cohort and 1391 in the survey cohort. During the trial (which originally enrolled 1791 participants), the separation of the glycated hemoglobin curves between the intensive-therapy group (892 participants) and the standard-therapy group (899 participants) averaged 1.5 percentage points, and this difference declined to 0.2 to 0.3 percentage points by 3 years after the trial ended. Over a period of 15 years of follow-up (active treatment plus post-trial observation), the risks of major cardiovascular events or death were not lower in the intensive-therapy group than in the standard-therapy group (hazard ratio for primary outcome, 0.91; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.78 to 1.06; P=0.23; hazard ratio for death, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.88 to 1.18). The risk of major cardiovascular disease outcomes was reduced, however, during an extended interval of separation of the glycated hemoglobin curves (hazard ratio, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.70 to 0.99), but this benefit did not continue after equalization of the glycated hemoglobin levels (hazard ratio, 1.26; 95% CI, 0.90 to 1.75).

Conclusions

Participants with type 2 diabetes who had been randomly assigned to intensive glucose control for 5.6 years had a lower risk of cardiovascular events than those who received standard therapy only during the prolonged period in which the glycated hemoglobin curves were separated. There was no evidence of a legacy effect or a mortality benefit with intensive glucose control.

More at https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1806802