Ron almost ready to say goodbye to diabetes after 25 years

A Swansea granddad diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 25 years ago is almost free of symptoms after taking part in a clinical trial.

ADMU Health Board Media Realease

Ron Beynon took part in the research study into a new diabetes medication held in Morriston Hospital’s Clinical Research Unit. And even though the 75-year-old doesn’t know if he was given active medication or a placebo, he has undergone a remarkable transformation. Ron’s weight has fallen dramatically and his insulin dose is now much lower than it was before he started the two-year trial.

He said: “My consultant tells me now that I’m very close to being a non-diabetic. It is reversible but you’ve got to put the work in.”

Clinical trials, or research studies, are carried out in a partnership between ABMU Health Board and Swansea University Medical School. They involve new medicines or devices that are being licensed and are trialled on patients, who have agreed to take part, to determine whether they are safe and more effective than current treatments. The trials take place simultaneously in several centres around the UK and worldwide. Patients are closely monitored during and after treatment.

Ron, from Treboeth, was given medication after his diagnosis in 1988 but, he admitted, didn’t take much notice of it because he didn’t feel ill.

He said: “I was thirsty and a bit tired but I never treated it seriously. In 1994 I was put on insulin. My sugars were going up. I put on weight and feeling generally terrible. I was tired, listless, and wasn’t really taking any notice of my diet. My blood pressure was sky high too.”

In August 2013 the Diabetes Centre in Morriston Hospital invited Ron to take part in a trial, which he agreed to. By then his weight had crept up to 123kg (nearly 20 stone) and his insulin intake was as a high as 60 units a day.

He said: “I was completely run down, but I started to take the disease seriously. I started looking into what I was eating. I cut out the cakes, pastry, bread and all the starchy foods. I ate more fruit and vegetables and changed my lifestyle completely.”

The two-year trial has ended and Ron’s weight has dropped to 97kg (a loss of more than four stone) and his insulin intake has reduced from 60 units a day to just 12.

Patients were selected at random to receive either active medication and others were given a placebo, a non-active dummy. To this day, Ron doesn’t know which he was given.

“But I do know the changes have come about because I was on the study. It made me realise Type 2 diabetes is curable. It has changed my life around. I can do things I couldn’t do before. I couldn’t walk to the end of the street and it’s only 150 yards. Now I do 6,000 paces a day, uphill and downhill. I couldn’t do it six months ago. I’m glad I took part. I haven’t got my blood pressure under control – I get good days and bad days. If there was a blood pressure trial and I had chance to take part, I’d be there.”

Professor Steve Bain (left), ABMU’s Assistant Medical Director for Research and Development, said trials could provide a stimulus for people to become more involved in managing their condition. He said: “Nobody knows who has had active medication and who has had the placebo, and will not know until the trial is over and all the data has been collected and analysed. But, regardless of which he had, Mr Beynon is now doing much better than he was previously. There is evidence that people on clinical trials do better than people who aren’t. There’s also evidence that people who take their medicine regularly – whether it’s active or a placebo – do better as well. If we can encourage people to get involved in clinical trials and get engaged with their condition, they tend to do better.”

ABMU, Swansea University and Hywel Dda have embarked on the Arch (A Regional Collaboration for Health) project to improve the health, wealth and wellbeing of the people of South West Wales. Research and development is an important strand of the Arch vision.

Professor Bain, who is also clinical lead for the Diabetes Research Network, Wales, said Swansea had a good track record of working with new drugs for treating diabetes. He added: “We already see ourselves as a leading centre and attract work from global pharmaceutical companies. But we hope the development of Arch will lead to an upscaling of our activities so that we can become a major player in the global search for new diabetes medicines. That in turn gives people in South West Wales the opportunity to take part in clinical trials so it will be a win-win situation.”

Further information about Arch is available at www.arch.wales

Notes: Images used in this media release are the copyright of ABMU Health Board. Press and Media have consent to use them free of charge, but they remain the copyright of the health board and must not be credited to any other organisation or individual.