Three widely used diabetes medications have been found to pose a greater risk of death than the long-time standby blood-sugar drug metformin.
New research presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston indicates patients taking the three drugs – glipizide, glyburide, and glimepiride – faced a 50 percent greater risk of death compared to metformin.
All three are in a class of drugs called sulfonylureas, used to decrease blood-sugar levels among type 2 diabetics patients by stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin.
"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," said Kevin M. Pantalone, an endocrinologist at Summa Western Reserve Hospital who led the study in conjunction with researchers from Cleveland Clinic.
Pantalone added that the research underscores the fact 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."
Researchers based their findings on an analysis of the health records of nearly 24,000 Cleveland Clinic type 2 diabetes patients who had received treatment with one of the four medications. They also analyzed death statistics from the Social Security Death Index. It was funded by a grant from Astra Zeneca.
In the United States, nearly 26 million people have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.