Background: Erythromycin, a macrolide antibiotic, has been shown to have gastric prokinetic effects and has been proposed as an alternative therapeutic option for diabetic gastroparesis. However, its efficacy has not yet been compared with that of other prokinetic drugs.
Aims: The purpose of the present study was to compare the effects of erythromycin (250 mg 60 min before meals) and cisapride (10 mg 30 min before meals) on gastric emptying of healthy subjects and insulin-dependent diabetics.
Patients and methods: Six type 1 diabetic patients with a previous scintigraphic demonstration of gastroparesis and five healthy subjects were recruited for the study. Gastric emptying was scintigraphically studied by labelling the solid component of a standard test meal. Three scintigraphic studies, spaced at least 3 days apart, were carried out on each subject, basally and after erythromycin or cisapride.
Results: Cisapride significantly accelerated gastric emptying in both the healthy subjects and the diabetic patients without any significant effect on the lag-time, whereas erythromycin in addition to a significant improvement of the overall gastric emptying also showed a pronounced effect on the lag-time in both groups (controls 25 +/- 5 vs. 37 +/- 8 min, P < or = 0.04; diabetics 65 +/- 11 vs. 112 +/- 16 min, P < 0.03).
Conclusions: Erythromycin may represent an effective therapeutic alternative to more established forms of treatment in patients with diabetic gastroparesis, especially when other drugs have failed.