David S. Schade, MD, is chief of UNM’s Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

As the country marks Diabetes Awareness Month in November, researchers at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center continue to recruit for a study that is trying to determine the most effective ways to treat Type 2 diabetes. Those who have enrolled, meanwhile, are experiencing good results.

UNM is one of nearly 50 medical centers across the country participating in GRADE – Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness Study – which is aiming to enroll 5,000 Type 2 diabetic patients nationwide. UNM has so far recruited 120 patients to participate, with a goal of enrolling at least 30 more in New Mexico.

“The GRADE study is the first comparative effectiveness study which will look directly at four of the major treatments for diabetes, compare them and try to determine which one or ones are the best for treating type 2 diabetes,” said David S. Schade, chief of endocrinology at UNM Hospital and a professor in the UNM School of Medicine. 

In 2013, UNM received a $2.8 million grant to participate in GRADE, which is sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The study aims to determine which of four FDA-approved diabetes medications, when combined with metformin (Glucophage), is most effective in treating Type 2 diabetes. Metformin is widely accepted as the first medication that is used to treat Type 2 diabetes. However, most patients eventually require an additional medication to manage the disease.

GRADE participants receive expert diabetes care at no cost, including medications and supplies, clinic visits, lab tests and diabetes education.

“The GRADE study has helped educate me about what diet and exercise can do for you and how taking a second medication, in addition to metformin, is a benefit that helped me take control of my diabetes,” said Jose Marquez, a two-year participant in the study.

An estimated 204,000 New Mexicans live with Type 2 diabetes, and that rate is climbing by 13 percent every year. Costs associated with diabetes in the United States exceed $240 billion per year.

Fortunately, researchers say, the diabetes epidemic has been met with the development of numerous new medications. But despite the availability of so many medications to treat the disease, doctors have little information to guide them to the best option.

“GRADE is a long-term study, which is necessary for a long-term disease like diabetes,” said study Chairman David M. Nathan, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Unit and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “It’s going to go for as long as seven years, and we hope to see over that period of time which diabetes treatment is best for the population as a whole, as well as which one drug or combination of drugs may be best for specific individuals.”

People with Type 2 diabetes may be eligible to participate in GRADE if they:

  • Have had Type 2 diabetes for less than 10 years
  • Are over 30 years old, or if American Indian, over 20 years old
  • Only take metformin (Glucophage) for their diabetes
  • Are willing to take a second diabetes medication
  • Are willing to make four office visits per year for the next 4 to 6 years

Anyone interested in enrolling or learning more about GRADE can call 505-272-5454 or visit