Type 2 Diabetes in the Real World: The Elusive Nature of Glycemic Control

Despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of over 40 new treatment options for type 2 diabetes since 2005, the latest data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that the proportion of patients achieving glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) <7.0% (<53 mmol/mol) remains around 50%, with a negligible decline between the periods 2003–2006 and 2011–2014. The Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set reports even more alarming rates, with only about 40% and 30% of patients achieving HbA1c <7.0% (<53 mmol/mol) in the commercially insured (HMO) and Medicaid populations, respectively, again with virtually no change over the past decade. A recent retrospective cohort study using a large U.S. claims database explored why clinical outcomes are not keeping pace with the availability of new treatment options. The study found that HbA1c reductions fell far short of those reported in randomized clinical trials (RCTs), with poor medication adherence emerging as the key driver behind the disconnect. In this Perspective, we examine the implications of these findings in conjunction with other data to highlight the discrepancy between RCT findings and the real world, all pointing toward the underrealized promise of FDA-approved therapies and the critical importance of medication adherence. While poor medication adherence is not a new issue, it has yet to be effectively addressed in clinical practice—often, we suspect, because it goes unrecognized. To support the busy health care professional, innovative approaches are sorely needed.

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