Fewer Deaths With Metformin Than With Sulfonylurea Alone

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Death rates are lower among people new to oral anti-diabetes medications if they take either metformin alone or metformin in combination with a sulfonylurea, as opposed to taking a sulfonylurea alone.

Canadian researchers in Edmonton, Alberta, studied database records for 12,272 people who had prescriptions for metformin or a sulfonylurea written between 1991 and 1996 and who had not taken any anti-diabetes drugs in the prior year. The researchers followed the prescription records for up to nine years and then focused on the records of subjects who had died during the study period. (Individuals who took insulin were excluded from the study.)

Among subjects who had been treated with drug therapy for at least one year, the mortality rate for those who took only a sulfonylurea was 24.7 percent, compared to 13.8 percent for those who took metformin alone and 13.6 percent for those who took both metformin and a sulfonylurea. Researchers also found reduced rates of death from cardiovascular problems among those who took metformin, compared to those who took a sulfonylurea alone.

Diabetes Care, December 2002

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