New HbA1c formula in the works

Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) tests will soon become more patient-friendly. In addition to the traditional percentages, results will be available in terms of average blood glucose levels, just like the meters diabetics use for self-monitoring.

David Nathan, MD, director of the diabetes center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, is leading a project to find a formula that translates the HbA1c assay into mg/dL glucose levels.

“This is the single most important assay in diabetes today because it assesses both chronic glucose control and risk for complications,” Dr. Nathan says. Richard Kahn, MD, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), agrees. Patients “more readily understand average blood glucose levels.”

The preliminary results of the project were presented to the ADA in June and an updated report to the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in September.

The new results will be available next year. Mathematical tables for converting HbA1c percentages to average glucose are being devised now, and new HbA1c machines will be designed to give both results. “Clinicians need to know that they’ll be seeing both numbers, so if they’re uncomfortable with one, they’ll have the other to look at,” Dr. Nathan notes.

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