Study: Neonatal Diabetes can Effectively be Treated with Tablets Instead of Injections

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By : Suvarna Sheth

Researchers at the University of Exeter in England reveal that treatment of neonatal diabetes with sulphonylurea tablets is just as successful as injections in the long-term, providing excellent sugar control after 10 years.

The decade-long study involved an international collaboration with 81 patients from 20 different countries and was funded by was funded by the Wellcome Trust and Diabetes UK.  The team’s research was published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology today.

Neonatal diabetes is a rare, life-threatening form of diabetes that is diagnosed in newborns before they are six months old.  Half of all cases are caused by a mutation in their KCNJ11 gene – which is involved in keeping insulin-producing cells in the pancreas working properly.

The study, led by Dr. Pamela Bowman, of the University of Exeter Medical School, showed that patients with neonatal diabetes can be treated successfully through sulphonylurea tablets, and maintain blood sugar control in the long term.

It was first discovered in 2006 that half of the patients with neonatal diabetes can come off insulin injections and be treated more effectively with sulphonylurea tablets.

“It was incredibly exciting to help people make the switch from insulin to simple tablets, but the question was, would the benefits last?” Bowman questioned in a press release, “Half of the people with type 2 diabetes treated with sulphonylureas no longer have good blood sugar control after five years,” Bowman points out.

“Our study has found that in neonatal diabetes, the tablets are safe and they work long-term – with 93% of people in the study remaining on sulphonylureas alone after 10 years, with excellent blood sugar control,” she indicates.

This study is life-changing for people who have been diagnosed with neonatal diabetes and have been on insulin all their life.  It eliminates the need to inject with insulin several times a day and it also means much better blood sugar control.

This is the first study to establish that this treatment is safe, and the effects are long term.  This is great news for the thousands of patients who have made the switch from insulin.  Children who have been diagnosed with diabetes should be tested for neonatal diabetes in order to get the right treatment for them.

Learn more about neonatal diabetes and the seven types of diabetes here.


  1.  Bowman, Pamela, (2018, June 4). “Effectiveness and safety of long-term treatment with sulfonylureas in patients with neonatal diabetes due to KCNJ11 mutations: an international cohort study,” Retrieved from
  2. “Miracle treatment long-term success for babies with diabetes,” (2018, June 4). Retrieved: