Deferoxamine Therapy in High-Ferritin Diabetes

  1. Paul Cutler
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Paul Cutler, MD, 4841 Yonge Street, Unit B4, Willowdale, Toronto, Ontario M2N 5X2, Canada.


Serum ferritin and diabetes control were evaluated in 18 White patients with poorly controlled type II (noninsulin-dependent) diabetes who had no known causes of iron-storage disorder. Serum ferritin levels were found to be elevated with normal serumiron and total iron-binding capacity in 9 of the 18 patients studied. Because excess iron, typified by hemochromatosis, is associated with diabetes, and diabetes has been shown to improve after lowering total-body iron load through repeat venesection, I investigated whether regulating elevated ferritin levels could facilitate diabetes control. Deferoxamine (DFO), a known specific chelator of iron, was used because of its capacity to correct excess iron stores. All 9 patients in the high-ferritin diabetic group and 7 of 9 diabetic control subjects with normal serum ferritin levels were given DFO (10 mg/kg i.v.) twice weekly. Diabetic control, fasting glucose, triglyceride, cholesterol, HbA1c, and serum ferritin levels were monitored. Data show that lowering elevated ferritin levels correlated well with diabetes control and improved fasting glucose, triglyceride, and HbA1c in 8 of 9 patients with high ferritin levels. Lowering normal ferritin levels had no effect on diabetes control or on any ofthe other parameters in the 7 control subjects. This study shows there is a need to study iron metabolism in poorly controlled diabetes and demonstrates the value of DFO in controlling high-ferritin diabetes.

  • Received October 24, 1988.
  • Revision received June 16, 1989.
  • Accepted June 16, 1989.
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