AHRQ updates report on oral diabetes medications' effectiveness and safety
Research Activities, May 2011, No. 369
The authors of this updated comparative effectiveness report affirmed that therapy using only one oral drug for diabetes lowers hemoglobin A1c by one point. Additional evidence suggests that combinations of oral medications lower A1c by 2 points. Hemoglobin A1c is a general measure of blood- sugar control over a period of 3 months. Based on the 2007 and 2010 reports, all drugs except metformin and the new injectable glucagon-like peptide agonists (GLP-1 agonists) are associated with weight gain of between 2 to 9 pounds.
The report also shows that some diabetes oral medications have other benefits, such as lowering "bad" cholesterol or helping to lower triglycerides. In addition, metformin causes some abdominal discomfort, but that side effect can be managed with other drug combinations. One class of drugs is associated with increased risk of heart failure and bone or hip fractures.
For more information, see Comparative Effectiveness and Safety of Oral Diabetes Medications for Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: An Update Including New Drug Classes and Two-Drug Combinations at Effective Health Care Program .