If you doctor started you on one of the sulfonylureas to manage your diabetes, you may be significantly more likely to die early than if you take metformin. Research presented on Wednesday showed that among more than 92,000 people in the United Kingdom with type 2 diabetes those who took only sulfonylureas were 58 percent more likely to die from any cause than those who took only metformin.
The research is in an abstract, “Association between first-line monotherapy with sulfonylurea versus metformin and risk of all-cause mortality,” presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Barcelona, Spain. The findings are preliminary because they haven’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal. And since the findings come from an observational study, the higher risk of death might be that doctors prescribed a sulfonylurea to sicker people. Another concern might be that Bristol-Myers Squibb, which sells Glucophage, a brand of metformin, provided financial support for the study.
Lots of us still take one of the sulfonylureas, which was the first oral drugs to help us manage type 2 diabetes. For more than half a century we have been using them — a class of drugs that includes Amaryl (glimepiride), Glucotrol XL (glipizide), and glyburide.