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Health Information Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find general information about what NIDDK offers and other frequently asked questions. Please call the NIDDK Health Information Center at 1-800-860-8747 or contact us via email or live chat if you have additional questions.

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are a part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Treatments might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments.  The goal of clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe. Clinical trials can also look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Doctors and other health professionals conduct clinical trials according to strict rules that are set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These rules make sure that people who agree to be in clinical trials are treated safely. Learn more about clinical trials, why they matter, and how to participate by visiting NIH Clinical Research Trials and You.

Watch a video of NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers explaining the importance of participating in clinical trials.

Where can I find information about current clinical trials?

Information about clinical trials conducted by the NIH, the NIDDK, and other federal and private organizations can be found at ClinicalTrials.gov. This site offers information about the location of clinical trials, their design and purpose, participation criteria, and additional information about the disease and treatment under study.

How can I participate in a clinical trial?

Find a clinical trial that’s right for you by searching ClinicalTrials.gov. If you are a healthy volunteer, contact the study coordinator listed for the clinical trial.  If you are a patient volunteer talk with your doctor. You may need a referral to participate in a study.

Does the NIDDK have information about how I can get help paying for medications or medical treatment?

The NIDDK has two fact sheets that can help: Financial Help for Diabetes Care and Financial Help for Treatment of Kidney Failure. You also can ask your health care team about sources that may offer assistance in your community, such as the following:

  • The Partnership for Prescription Assistance website lists more than 475 programs that help pay for medications. Many of these programs are provided by the drug companies that produce medications. People can find programs and apply for help by calling 1-888-477-2669.
  • NeedyMeds is a nonprofit group that helps people find programs that help pay for medications.  The NeedyMeds website allows the user to search a list of programs by medication or manufacturer name. Some of the forms to apply are online.
  • RxAssist provides information about drug company programs, state programs, discount drug cards, copay help, and more.
  • Rx Outreach is a nonprofit pharmacy that provides affordable medications to people in need. The Rx Outreach website provides information about the medications offered and how to apply.
  • The National Council on Aging provides benefit information for seniors with limited income and resources.

Does my Medicare cover my diabetes supplies?

Medicare covers certain supplies for people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes: a glucose testing monitor, blood glucose test strips, lancets, spring-powered devices for lancets, and glucose control solutions. Some frequency limitations may apply. Medicare does not cover insulin and syringes.

For more information about Medicare coverage related to diabetes, call the Medicare Hotline toll free at 1–800–MEDICARE and read Medicare's Coverage of Diabetes Supplies & Services (PDF, 1.05 MB) a booklet from the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services.

How do I find answers to my specific medical questions?

A doctor who has examined you and knows your medical history is the best person to answer your questions. The NIDDK cannot provide a diagnosis or medical advice for individual situations. However, the NIDDK produces numerous health information resources for the public. The NIDDK’s Health Information section lists consumer and easy-to-read publications on health topics.  You also can call 1-800-860-8747 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday – Friday or email one of the NIDDK’s Information Clearinghouses for assistance in locating information and resources.

If you are unsure which NIH Institute covers your topic of interest, go to the NIH Health Information Index and use the NIH search engine. If you have a complex question and are comfortable with technical articles, you can search the medical literature using the free online access to Medline PubMedMEDLINEPlus contains more consumer-friendly information on specific disease topics and conditions than Medline PubMed, and links to medical encyclopedias and dictionaries, drug information (including access to a guide to more than 9,000 prescription and over-the-counter medications provided by the U.S. Pharmacopeia), and other resources. If you still need help finding general information about a diagnosed condition, send your question to the NIDDK Health Information Center.

Can you refer me to a specialist or tell me the best place to go for treatment?

The NIDDK does not provide referrals, as we cannot and do not evaluate practicing physicians or practitioners. Ask your primary physician for a referral to a specialist or place to go for treatment. You also can contact a local medical society for a listing of specialists in your area. We recommend finding a specialist associated with a university-affiliated or teaching hospital if one is located in your area. Try to find a physician who is board certified in the specialty you need and skilled in the procedures you may undergo.

To verify a physician's credentials, look in The Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists, which is available in most public libraries. In addition, MEDLINEPlus provides a consumer-friendly listing of organizations that will assist you in your search for physicians and other health professionals.

Does NIDDK and the NIH have medical specialists? What if I wanted to come to the NIH for treatment?

The NIDDK conducts and supports biomedical research and is not a diagnostic institution. While the NIH has a Clinical Center, patients seen there must have a physician referral and a specific diagnosis to participate in the center’s research studies.

Practicing physicians who would like to consult with an NIDDK specialist should contact the NIDDK investigator directly.

Where can I find clinical standards and treatment guidelines?

For clinical standards and treatment guidelines, search the National Guideline Clearinghouse, a public resource for evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.

Does the NIDDK or the NIH have information about alternative therapies for my condition?

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the NIH, and is a good source for this information.

How can I find a support group for people with my medical condition?

We recommend asking other health care team or your local hospital for information about support groups.

Does the NIDDK have nutrition and meal planning information?

Yes, general information about nutrition and meal planning related to specific conditions and diseases is in many of our fact sheets and booklets. For individual advice about meal plans for various medical conditions, contact a registered dietitian. Your doctor can provide the name of a dietitian in your area. More information about registered dietitians is available from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Medicare covers dietary counseling (commonly called medical nutrition therapy—MNT) services prescribed by a doctor for people with diabetes or kidney disease. This benefit includes:

  • An initial assessment of nutrition and lifestyle assessment 
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Information regarding managing lifestyle factors that affect diet 
  • Follow-up visits to monitor progress managing diet

For more information about Medicare MNT services, visit: medicare.gov

How do I order publications from the NIDDK?

All of NIDDK’s health information content is available online for printing. Should you require additional information or assistance, please call the NIDDK Health Information Center at 1-800-860-8747 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Can I make copies of NIDDK health information publications?

Yes, our information is not copyrighted. We encourage users of our publications to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.