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Diabetes Medication Linked to Increased Risk of Death

Destiny Baker3 years ago

MedPage Today reports that a recent analysis has found that use of sulfonylureas carries a significant increase risk of death when compared to alternative diabetes medications.

Overview of Sulfonylureas

  • Sulfonylureas are a class of diabetes drugs that increase the release of insulin from the pancreas in order to lower blood sugar.
  • The agents are used in the treatment of mild to moderate Type 2 diabetes and may be used alone or in combination with other diabetes treatments.
  • Both Amaryl and Glucotrol are sulfonylureas.

Analysis of Sulfonylureas Finds Increased Risk of Death

“I’m not saying this is a smoking gun. I’m just saying that regulatory agency and [medical] societies have got to take this seriously” – Craig Currie, PhD, epidemiologist at Cardiff University in Wales as published by MedPage Today

  • Previous evidence has shown increased rates of adverse events occurring in sulfonylurea users leading to an alternative drug, metformin, replacing sulfonylurea as the preferred first line treatment; however, sulfonyluseas are still prescribed in about 15 percent of Type 2 diabetes patients.
  • In a more recent study, researchers analyzed data from Clinical Practice Datalink which includes about 10 percent of all U.K. patients who received primary care between 2000 and 2012.
  • The researchers observed 76,811 metformin patients and 15,687 sulfonylurea patients, following them for over 2 ½ years.
  • The study concluded that patients who were initially treated with sulfonylurea had a 58 percent higher risk of death than those who were treated with metformin.
Possible Causes of the Increased Death Rate

While researchers have yet to be able to positively identify what is causing the increase in risk of death, some speculate it has to do with the effects sulfonylureas have on insulin. 

As the drugs increase the insulin they also increase hormone levels leading to an increased risk of hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia carries increased risk of cardiovascular problems including cardiac arrest and arrhythmias.

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