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Sanofi Aventis K.K. has begun a study on 6,000 people with diabetes in 13 countries who are using insulin to find out how to control blood-sugar levels as a way to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company’s study will take four years, with 60 medical institutions and 600 patients from Japan taking part, a company official said.

Type-2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes and often caused by obesity, stress and lack of exercise, is sharply increasing worldwide. In Japan, an estimated 7.4 million people are thought to have the disease. The number worldwide is at more than 200 million and is expected to top 350 million by 2025.

Blindness, kidney problems and nerve damage are some of the better known complications associated with diabetes. However, one-third of all people who have heart attacks also have diabetes, while half of people who have strokes have the condition, Sanofi Aventis said.

“Scientific proof of the link between the outbreak of cardiovascular implications and the control of blood-sugar levels is lacking both at home and abroad,” said Ryuzo Kawamori, a professor in the department of medicine, metabolism and endocrinology at Juntendo University, who is working on the Japanese study.

“By observing the situation of treatment and management (of Type-2 diabetes) with insulin, we will be able to get a guidepost for control and use this observation to reevaluate diagnostic guidelines.”

The target of the study is Type-2 diabetes patients over 41 years old who have been using insulin for between one and six months. Researchers want to find out at what blood-sugar level cardiovascular problems arise, or death from stroke or heart attack, and how they can control it.

The study will also look at the results according to age, sex and ethnicity and suggest treatments best suited for each group.

In Japan, an estimated 1.5 million people use insulin, and more than 10,000 people die annually of diabetes or complications from diabetes. The global figure is more than 3 million deaths annually.

“The cost of treating complications (from diabetes) is estimated at more than 2 trillion yen,” Kawamori said. “The results of the study will also help to curb such medical expenses.”

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