While Americans typically know key healthcare numbers such as their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight, according to a recent Yankelovich Partners survey, 74 percent of the population over the age of 45 does not know their blood sugar level, which indicates whether they have type 2 diabetes.

The results of the Yankelovich poll underscore the serious lack of awareness in the United States about type 2 diabetes among an age group that is at increased risk for developing the disease. Fifty-six percent of the survey respondents were unaware of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes and 42 percent were not aware of the serious complications associated with the condition. Furthermore, 43 percent of survey participants did not know they should have their blood sugar level checked regularly. The survey was sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, maker of Glucophage� (metformin hydrochloride tablets), the number one name-brand oral antidiabetic.

In response to the results of the survey, Bristol-Myers Squibb is launching "Learn Your Level," a public awareness initiative designed to encourage Americans to learn their blood sugar level and, if diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, to work closely with their healthcare provider to make sure their blood sugar is under control.

As part of the "Learn Your Level" program, Bristol-Myers is encouraging one million Americans to determine their risk for type 2 diabetes in 1998 by filling out a risk assessment test available online via http://www.diabetesnetwork.com.

Type 2 diabetes affects an estimated 15.3 million Americans. If undiagnosed or improperly managed, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious complications that can cause blindness, kidney failure, amputations, circulatory problems and heart disease. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be controlled through weight loss, dietary modifications and regular exercise. When weight loss, diet and exercise do not have the desired effect, oral antidiabetic agents such as Glucophage are usually added to the management program. Glucophage, as an adjunct to diet, helps lower blood sugar level by improving insulin sensitivity and by decreasing hepatic glucose production and intestinal absorption of glucose. Glucophage does not cause weight gain; some patients may experience a slight decrease in weight. Glucophage may modestly improve both cholesterol and triglyceride levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, particularly if baseline levels are elevated.

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Glucophage is generally well-tolerated. Gastrointestinal side effects such as diarrhea, nausea and upset stomach are most common and generally resolve with continued use. Lactic acidosis, a serious condition, has been reported rarely, primarily in patients whose kidneys are not working normally. If cases occur, up to half may be fatal. Glucophage is contraindicated in patients with kidney disease or dysfunction, acute chronic metabolic acidosis including diabetic ketoacidosis, patients with congestive heart failure treated with medication and in patients with impaired liver function or excessive alcohol intake (acute or chronic).

Glucophage should be promptly withheld in the presence of any condition associated with hypoxemia, dehydration or sepsis. Glucophage therapy should be temporarily discontinued in patients undergoing radiologic studies involving intravascular administration of iodinated contrast materials. For patients over 80 years of age, doctors should assess creatinine clearance before initiating therapy. Glucophage is not recommended for pregnant or pediatric patients. The University Group Diabetes Program study suggests increased cardiovascular risk for sulfonylureas and biguanides such as Glucophage.