Use of diabetes pills up, insulin use down

Research Activities, November 2010, No. 363

The proportion of Americans reporting treatment for diabetes who took oral medications to treat their condition, increased from 60 percent in 1997 to 77 percent in 2007—a 28 percent increase—according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). During the same period, the proportion taking insulin to control their diabetes fell from 38 percent to 24 percent.

AHRQ's analysis also revealed a shift in the three most commonly prescribed oral medications between 1997 and 2007. The proportion of Americans using sulfonylureas, which stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin, declined from 1997 to 2007. The proportion using biguanides, which reduce the liver's excess glucose production, and thiazolidinediones, which increase insulin sensitivity, rose during the period. Specifically, the proportions of people who were treated for diabetes who used the three most commonly prescribed oral medications were as follows:

  • Sulfonylureas declined from 51 percent to 40 percent.
  • Biguanides rose from 21 percent to 55 percent.
  • Thiazolidinediones increased from 5 percent to 25 percent.

The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Trends in the Pharmaceutical Treatment of Diabetes: A Comparison of Utilization and Expenditures, 1997 and 2007 at Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) .

For more information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at Bob.Isquith@ahrq.hhs.gov or call (301) 427-1539.

For information on comparisons of the effectiveness and side effects of oral antidiabetic medicines, see Pills for Type 2 Diabetes: A Guide for Adults at the Effective Health Care Program Web site.

Current as of November 2010
Internet Citation: Use of diabetes pills up, insulin use down: Research Activities, November 2010, No. 363. November 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/nov10/1110RA25.html