Living with diabetes: Rocklin man finds fresh hope

Clinical study results in new drug approved by FDA
By: Michael Althouse, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Rocklin resident Gordon Fish, 76, has lived with Type 2 diabetes for nearly 40 years. For the past six years, however, he has done something that has not only improved his life, but has the potential to improve the lives of countless others who also live with the disease. Fish is participating in a long-term clinical study that is scheduled to conclude this October. Due to his and others? participation, a new drug, Bydureon, was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. ?I wish they had this drug 40 years ago,? Fish said, adding that he had tried numerous means to control his blood sugar levels since he learned he had diabetes. When he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Fish said he had no idea that he had the disease. ?My vision was real bad,? Fish said. ?It turns out that diabetes was causing the problem.? Fish said the oral medication he was given did help his vision, however, it was very difficult to control his blood sugar levels. At one point, Fish discontinued taking all medication, which, he said, ?is the wrong thing to do because you can?t feel anything with diabetes.? While this is not the first clinical trial for diabetes medication that Fish has volunteered for, it is the first medication that ended up being approved by the FDA. Fish said he spent a great deal of effort researching trials for new medications. ?The medications worked well, but when the trial was over, so was the medication,? Fish said. Six years ago, Fish?s endocrinologist recommended an insulin regimen to control his worsening diabetes; however, Fish did not want to use insulin and decided instead to volunteer for the Bydureon study. Fish utilized various resources to locate clinical studies, but the one he found the most useful was a publication and associated website, Center Watch and ?Our primary goal is to provide information and resources to patients, caregivers and family members,? regarding clinical studies, said Joan Chambers, Center Watch?s chief operating officer. Established in 1994, Center Watch is a ?patient centered? organization that endeavors to provide easy-to-understand clinical research information to patients who may benefit from it. The new drug that Fish helped research, Bydureon, was developed by Amylin Pharmaceuticals and approved for use by the FDA last January as a supplement to diet and exercise to control type 2 diabetes. According to Amylin Executive Director Alice Izzo, Bydureon is the first once-weekly treatment for individuals attempting to control type 2 diabetes. Fish acknowledged the drug has been more effective than anything else he has ever tried - and he has good reason to believe it. ?At one point in the study they put me on a placebo for six months,? Fish said. ?My levels started to go back up. When I went back on it, my levels came down again.? According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), ?type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and many more are unaware they are at high risk.? Among the groups identified by the ADA, seniors are one of the primary groups that are high risk. According to Izzo (citing data from the Centers for Disease Control), 8.4 percent of the adults in Sacramento County have been diagnosed with diabetes. Center for Disease Control data indicates the percentage (6.5 percent) is only slightly lower in Placer County. Fish volunteered for the study while he lived in San Diego. Since then, he has moved to Little Rock, Ark., and about a year ago, to Rocklin. However, he has traveled back to San Diego every eight weeks throughout the study to remain involved in the research project. A retired city manager, Fish spends his time with family and painting. He is an avid golfer ? hitting the local links five to six times every week.