-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Diabetes patients who
take drugs called sulfonylureas as an initial therapy have a higher
risk of death than those who take the diabetes drug metformin, a
new study says.
The British researchers said the findings suggest that it may no
longer be appropriate to offer sulfonylureas as a first-line
Diabetes experts in the United States agreed that the study
could have an impact on care.
The findings "will change the practice of glucose [blood
sugar]-lowering therapy," said Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an
endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
But he added that "more study is need to confirm this data," and
use of the alternative drug, metformin, is not always the answer.
"Metformin and other oral hypoglycemic agents have their drawbacks,
and probably we will see earlier use of insulin in type 2
diabetics," Mezitis said.
Both metformin (brand names include Glucophage and Fortamet) and
sulfonylureas (glyburide and glipizide) are commonly prescribed as
first-line therapies for patients and have been available since the
The new study was funded by drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb,
which makes Glucophage.
Researchers analyzed data from thousands of people in the United
Kingdom who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and began
first-line blood sugar-lowering treatments between 2000 and 2012
and were followed for an average of three years.
Patients who took sulfonylureas only were 58 percent more likely
to die from any cause than those who took metformin only, according
to the study, which was presented Wednesday at the annual meeting
of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Barcelona,
The findings suggest "that treatment with first-line monotherapy
[one-drug only] with sulfonylureas should be reconsidered," wrote a
team led by Dr. Craig Currie of Cardiff University.
Another U.S. expert said sulfonylureas and metformin fight
diabetes in different ways. Sulfonylureas work "by increasing
insulin release from the beta cells in the pancreas," while
metformin "acts by suppressing glucose production by the liver,"
explained Dr. Patricia Vuguin, a pediatric endocrinologist at the
Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park,
Findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases has more about
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