Diabetes Drugs Linked To Increased Risk Of Death

Three common diabetes drugs are associated with an increased risk of death, says a new study presented at the Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

According to PubMed Health, diabetes is a chronic illness in which high levels of sugar in the blood is a hallmark of the condition. The two main types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes in which the body makes little or no insulin and type 2 diabetes in which the body does not respond correctly to insulin. Gestational diabetes can also occur during pregnancy in women who were not previously diabetic.

Diabetes is often controlled with medication. However, three common diabetes drugs (glipizide, glyburide, and glimepiride) have recently been linked to an increased risk of death. All three medications are sulfonylureas, which are diabetes drugs that help decrease blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes by stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin.

According to past research, all sulfonylureas were considered equal. However, recent research indicates that certain types of diabetes drugs may be safer than others. When comparing glipizide, glyburide, and glimepiride with another medication, metformin, researchers discovered that individuals who took metformin had a decreased risk of death than individuals who took one of the other three diabetes drugs.

As Kevin M. Pantalone, D.O., an endocrinologist at Summa Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and the lead author of the study, comments on Medical News Today:

“We have clearly demonstrated that metformin is associated with a substantial reduction in mortality risk, and, thus, should be the preferred first-line agent, if one has a choice between metformin and a sulfonylurea.”

According to the study, the three diabetes drugs glipizide, glyburide, and glimepiride were associated with a more than 50 percent increased risk of death compared to metformin. Furthermore, in diabetes patients who also had heart disease, glipizide was associated with a 41 percent and glyburide with a 38 percent increased risk of death.

As Pantalone explains on Science Daily:

“Since many patients with type 2 diabetes also have coronary artery disease, our results could potentially impact the care of a large number of patients. 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.”

Although all medications including diabetes drugs come with risks, the risks must be weighed against the benefits. The results of this study may help to improve the care and outcome of patients with diabetes. As Pantalone concludes:

“All drugs have risks, even those which are generic and relatively inexpensive. 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.”

Have you experienced a negative reaction while taking one these diabetes drugs?