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Delaying Diabetes

A woman and man sit in a treatment room with their son who’s wearing a blue sweatshirt. They’re speaking to a doctor, who is also seated wearing a black vest and pink shirt.
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Kate and Michael Troutman discuss their son William’s Tzield treatment with Dr. Bryce Nelson, Chief Pediatric Endocrinologist at The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Health experts have called the global rise in diabetes “alarming.” More than 10 percent of adult Virginians have been diagnosed with the disease.

A new drug is providing hope to children and adults who are at risk for type 1 diabetes. The drug is called Tzield, and it delays the onset of the disease for years. William Troutman was the first patient to receive the medicine in Virginia after his sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.


ADRIENNE McGIBBON: The Troutmans have two children with two different stories. Their youngest child, Jenna, was diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was 11.

AMANDA TROUTMAN: For our daughter, everything she eats and all of her activity, her glucose blood sugar is measured 24 hours a day, so it's never ending.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: William has not been diagnosed with diabetes, but because of his sister's diagnosis, he's at a higher risk. So his parents decided to put the 17-year-old on a drug recently approved by the FDA called Tzield.

AMANDA TROUTMAN: We knew what it meant to have a child with type one diabetes and the relentless nature of it. So we definitely wanted any portion of extension, 'cause that's what Tzield is supposed to do is extend the life of the beta cells that produce insulin, so we were thrilled.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: Early studies of Tzield show it delays the onset of diabetes by two to eight years for adults and children. Dr. Bryce Nelson is the Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology at the Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU and oversees William's care.

DR. BRYCE NELSON: Think about the impact of that two years could be in a child in middle school and not having to go to the school nurse, not being singled out in a way that makes them feel different.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: Dr. Nelson says this medicine is revolutionizing how he treats diabetes.

DR. BRYCE NELSON: Prior to that medication, even if I knew someone was in this particular stage, all I could do was wait until they needed to go on insulin, wait and watch. Now there's something I could potentially do.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: By delaying the onset, Dr. Nelson says the treatment decreases the long-term effects diabetes has on major organs, like the heart, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels. Some side effects from Tzield include fever, fatigue, nausea, and headache. Amanda Troutman says she hopes the drug will buy her son some more time.

AMANDA TROUTMAN: Our hope is that while in the waiting, something else will come out and you know, just getting back some of what diabetes can steal, yeah.

Links to resources:
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
American Diabetes Association


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