Anyone living with type 2 diabetes will tell you that it is a 24/7, 365 day a year struggle. There are no days off, and no break from the health decisions made daily, and often hourly. This creates a physical and emotional burden that no person should be required to bear.
Today, on World Diabetes Day, we have additional reason to believe people don’t have to.
Just a few days ago on Veterans Day we revealed some early results from our partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that show how veterans on the Virta Treatment are radically improving their health. The outcomes in the context of the growing diabetes epidemic, which now costs $404B in the U.S. and affects billions of people globally, are thrilling. They are full of not only hope, but also the promise for real change.
Analysis of the first 104 patients in our VA partnership saw half of enrollees with type 2 diabetes achieve blood sugar levels below the diabetes threshold. Nearly 100% of the remaining patients saw improvement in blood sugar, too, with the vast majority seeing at least a one point drop.
Most remarkably, these outcomes weren’t achieved by prescribing more diabetes medications. They occurred while eliminating 53% of diabetes prescriptions, including insulin. Medications were no longer needed because of the effectiveness of Virta’s nutrition therapy. All of this occurred in just 90 days.
The “side benefits” we see with diabetes reversal are also present with our veteran patients. For example, patients in this analysis also experienced 5% weight loss during the 90-day period. Comments about feeling better, more physically fit, more energetic, and even more hopeful fill our patient feedback channels.
Our peer-reviewed research on type 2 diabetes and commercial outcomes show further improvement in blood sugar, medication reduction, and weight loss (12% at one year). The veteran results align with the trajectory of these sustained improvements in other populations, and that is significant.
If you are familiar with the typical progression and side-effects of even well-controlled diabetes it should be clear how life-changing these outcomes are. As always, they are best understood through the experiences of our patients.
Ron spent 26 years in the Air Force. To treat his type 2 diabetes, he injected 60 units of insulin, twice a day. At the same time, his overall health had deteriorated to the point that he had an 85% blockage in one of his carotid arteries, requiring major surgery, and he also needed foot surgery.
In 90 days on the Virta Treatment, his HbA1c went from 6.7% to 5.0%, and he no longer required diabetes medications. He also lost 15 pounds, returning his weight and waistline to what they had been in high school. As Ron says, “Before, I could not imagine a day where I no longer had to take diabetes medications to control my blood sugar, yet here I am. Not only has my health improved dramatically, but so has my overall well-being.”
For Lester, an Army Veteran, the uncomfortable side-effects from metformin and twice-daily glipizide tablets created a constant, deepening worry that type 2 diabetes would cause him to lose his job as a driver. His HbA1c eventually jumped to a very dangerous 14.0%.
Virta helped Lester get his blood sugar to near normal-levels in just under two months, eventually helping him remove all diabetes medications. “I feel like I am taking back control of my life, which is something I never felt when taking more diabetes drugs.”
How is this possible? It starts with amazing patients, who inspire us with their courage and commitment to better health. For our part, we give them an intervention that works—a nutrition therapy that restores metabolic health, highly individualized to meet the needs for each and every person, and designed to last.
Like much of our population, though, veterans can be a difficult group to reach, with many living far away from medical centers. This is where our tech-enabled, provider-led continuous remote care comes in. It is why we are so excited about our prospects in delivering diabetes reversal not only to veterans, but to a global population.
By introducing a new healthcare delivery system—continuous instead of episodic care provided virtually through mobile devices—we can safely de-prescribe medications when they are no longer needed. We can deliver medical care and behavioral support proactively, when and where people need it, to make results last and help people live diabetes-free.
Fear, struggle, physical and emotional discomfort, shame, life-threatening complications—this is what living with type 2 diabetes means for many people, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Ron and Lester’s stories are few of the many that illustrate why.
They also explain why we are so focused on reversal. The current approach is broken for patients, providers, and payers. If we really hope to transform lives and end the global diabetes epidemic, we need a new way.
Now more than ever, we know what is possible. It can be seen in the rapid health improvement in our veteran population, in the sustained outcomes from our one and two-year peer-reviewed manuscripts from our clinical trial, and in our fast-growing commercial population. The benefits of reversal should be an option for everyone living with diabetes today, and we are working furiously to make that happen.