SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Virta Health, the type 2 diabetes reversal leader, announced two-year patient outcomes from its multi-year partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The results, presented at the American Diabetes Association 82nd Scientific Sessions, highlight broad metabolic health improvements for veteran patients, including long-term blood sugar reduction, clinically-significant weight loss, and medication deprescription.
Veterans like Lester see broad, lasting metabolic health improvements with Virta’s type 2 diabetes reversal treatment.
A whopping 25% of US Veterans suffer from type 2 diabetes, a rate more than double that of the general public. Severe complications from the disease are also common, as diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, end-stage renal disease, and amputation for VA patients. Further, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, higher blood sugar levels and insulin use among Veterans with diabetes were associated with increased risk of hospitalization, admission to the ICU, and death, per research in Diabetes Care.
Preliminary results from Virta’s real-world study of Veterans receiving diabetes reversal treatment show promise for a different trajectory. At two years, patients saw transformative outcomes including:
Sustained blood sugar control: More than two-thirds of patients achieved blood sugar levels below the HEDIS measure for diabetes control (HEDIS measures are the most widely used performance benchmark in healthcare).
Medication deprescription: Across all diabetes drugs, prescriptions were reduced by one-third.
Weight loss: Veteran patients experienced an average weight loss of 7%, exceeding the 5% benchmark for clinically significant weight loss by nearly 50%.
Diabetes reversal and remission: One-sixth of patients either reversed their diabetes (A1c <6.5% without diabetes medications excluding metformin) or put the disease into drug-free remission at two years.
Broad improvement in cardiometabolic health: HDL cholesterol and triglycerides saw significant improvement.
Further, nearly two-thirds of veterans remained in treatment at two years—exceedingly high retention as compared to other lifestyle and even pharmaceutical interventions. In contrast, for the National Diabetes Prevention Program, considered the gold standard for lifestyle interventions, only 13% of patients were retained at one year.
Beyond the success of those who remained in treatment, Virta also assessed the progress of Veterans who dropped out. While drop-out is often considered a sign of failure, Virta patients who dropped out saw notable improvements, including clinically-significant weight loss (5.6%) and 50% reduction in prescribed diabetes medications.
For Warren Ridley, a Marine Corps Veteran, the benefits of staying enrolled in Virta’s treatment are clear. While suffering from diabetes for nearly three decades, Warren was prescribed daily insulin injections, among other medications, to control his diabetes complications. Even so, he developed diabetic retinopathy, rendering him legally blind and unable to work, along with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).
Warren presumed he’d continue suffering from diabetes and its side effects for the rest of his life. Yet, since starting the Virta treatment in August 2019, Warren has reduced his insulin dosage by 96%, lost 63 pounds, restored his kidney health, and no longer has CHF.
“This is a wonderful program,” said Warren. “I actually think it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”
Although the pilot is fully enrolled, Veterans interested in participating can indicate interest at www.virtahealth.com/veterans. For information on VA health care, visit www.va.gov/health.