Medications that increase insulin output by the pancreas are called sulfonylureas. These type of drugs are often prescribed to patients with diabetes as they decrease levels of blood glucose in the body and increase insulin release from the pancreas. Chlorpropamide is a drug that has been used to increase insulin pancreas output for some time, whilst several new drugs have recently been developed, including Amaryl, Glucotrol and DiaBeta. These drugs lower blood glucose sugar but have several risks, such as causing hypoglycemia, a condition where an individual has a low amount of blood sugar. They are also dangerous for individuals who are allergic to sulfa and studies suggest they could increase the risk of heart failure amongst diabetes patients. This article explores the possible long term effects of sulfonylureas.
Recent research suggests that if you have recently been prescribed one of the sulfonylureas drugs for diabetes, you have a significantly higher chance of dying early than if you were take the oral antibiotic drug metformin. A study undertaken in the United Kingdom found that those who took only sulfonylureas for their diabetes had a 58 per cent higher chance of dying than those who were only prescribed metformin. There are currently 92,000 people who have type 2 diabetes in the United Kingdom. The research was presented in Barcelona, Spain, at the Association for Study of Diabetes. Although these results have not yet officially been published in a medical journal, the findings are significant. Critics suggest that the reason more people die when taking sulfonylureas is because these group of drugs are more likely to be prescribed to diabetes patients who are severely unwell.
Sulfonylureas are often the very first type of medication given to patients who have type 2 diabetes and have been used in medicine for more than 50 years. They are relatively inexpensive to produce and because they have been around for so long, doctors are comfortable prescribing them to patients. The drugs help the human body release a greater amount of insulin from within the beta cells of the pancreas. Another concern with this medication is that patients that use them for a long time could possibly cause damage to these beta cells and this in turn could make their condition much more difficult to manage. A recent study noted how there was a correlation between sulfonylureas use and a dramatic reduction in the function of beta cells.
Other studies in the previous few years have suggested that these types of drugs carry greater cardiovascular risks when compared to other medicine to treat diabetes. In a study where 90,000 type 2 diabetes were prescribed either metformin or sulfonylureas, research noted a increased risk of heart failure in the group who were only taking sulfonylureas. The increase in risk was suggested to be as much as 30%. This study confirms the findings of two other research projects in 2006 and 2009 which both explored the correlation between heart failure and the use of certain drugs given to diabetes patients. As the long term effects of sulfonylureas are not yet known, it is always advisable to talk to your doctor if you have any concern about your use of these drugs.