Common diabetes drugs associated with increased risk of death

June 25, 2012

Compared to another popular drug, three widely used diabetes medications are associated with a greater risk of death, a large new analysis finds. The results will be presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

The drugs, glipizide, glyburide, and glimepiride, are known as sulfonylureas, which help decrease blood-sugar levels among type 2 by stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin. In the past, these medications were considered comparable to one another in terms of effectiveness and safety. Recently, however, research has shown some sulfonylureas may be safer than others. These findings led to this latest research, which compared them to another type of blood-sugar-reducing drug known as metformin. All four medications are available under low-cost, generic labels.

"We have clearly demonstrated that metformin is associated with a substantial reduction in , and, thus, should be the preferred first-line agent, if one has a choice between metformin and a sulfonylurea," said study lead author Kevin M. Pantalone, D.O., an endocrinologist at Summa Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls, OH, who conducted this study in conjunction with a team of researchers from Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH.

In the United States, nearly 26 million people, or 8 percent of the population, have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these patients also have other underlying medical conditions, including heart, or coronary artery, disease.

Investigators found that all three sulfonylureas studied were associated with a more than 50 percent greater risk of death compared to metformin. Additionally, among diabetes patients with heart disease, only glimepiride did not increase the risk of death compared to . In contrast, glipizide was associated with a 41 percent, and glyburide with a 38 percent greater risk.

"Since many patients with also have , our results could potentially impact the care of a large number of patients," Pantalone said. "In these patients, we now know that glimepiride appears to be safer than the other commonly prescribed sulfonylureas, glipizide and glyburide, available in the United States."

For this retrospective study, using the electronic health-record system at Cleveland Clinic, the investigators identified 23,915 patients with type 2 diabetes who previously had received treatment with one of the four medications. Overall, the study population's average age (years) was 62, and 50 percent were male. Among the subgroup with heart disease, the average age was 68, and 69 percent were male. Both groups comprised primarily Caucasian patients. The median follow-up was slightly more than two years.

According to Pantalone, this research serves as a reminder that adverse events can occur with any medication. "All drugs have risks, even those which are generic and relatively inexpensive," he said. "It is important to talk to with your doctors about which drugs may be better and safer options, which may vary depending on your other health conditions."

In addition to the data from the hospital electronic health-record system, investigators analyzed death statistics from the Social Security Death Index. The study was supported through a grant from Astra Zeneca.

Explore further: Some diabetes drugs are better than others, according to new study

Related Stories

Some diabetes drugs are better than others, according to new study

April 7, 2011
New research suggests that several commonly prescribed drugs for type 2 diabetes may not be as effective at preventing death and cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and stroke, as the oral anti-diabetic drug, metformin.

ACP recommends metformin to treat type 2 diabetes based on CE analysis of oral medications

February 6, 2012
The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends that clinicians add metformin as the initial drug treatment for most patients with type 2 diabetes when lifestyle modifications such as diet, exercise, and weight loss have ...

New study examines risks and benefits of the first line treatment for diabetes

April 10, 2012
Although the drug metformin is considered the gold standard in the management of type 2 diabetes, a study by a group of French researchers published in this week's PLoS Medicine suggests that the long-term benefits of this ...

Recommended for you

Controlling diabetes with your phone might be possible someday

November 21, 2017
Think about this. You have diabetes, are trying to control your insulin levels and instead of taking a pill or giving yourself an injection, you click an app on your phone that tells your pancreas to bring blood sugar levels ...

Insulin pill may delay type 1 diabetes in some

November 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—It's often said that timing is everything. New research suggests this may be true when giving an insulin pill to try to prevent or delay type 1 diabetes.

Simple test predicts diabetes remission following weight loss surgery

November 21, 2017
A new simple test that helps predicts which people with type 2 diabetes will benefit most from weight loss surgery has been developed by a UCL-led team.

Pre-diabetes discovery marks step towards precision medicine

November 20, 2017
Researchers from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre have identified three specific molecules that accurately indicate insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes - a major predictor of metabolic syndrome, the collection ...

Scientists reverse diabetes in a mouse model using modified blood stem cells

November 15, 2017
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have successfully reversed type 1 diabetes in a mouse model by infusing blood stem cells pre-treated to produce more of a protein called PD-L1, which is deficient in mice (and people) ...

Pregnancy-related conditions taken together leave moms—and dads—at risk

November 14, 2017
Research has already shown that women who develop either diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy are at risk of getting type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease years later. Now, a new study from a team ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.