December 2022

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Health Capsule

Popular Diabetes Drugs Compared in Large Trial

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body has trouble controlling blood glucose, also called blood sugar. High blood glucose levels can cause problems throughout the body. It can lead to nerve damage, heart disease, and other concerns.

Health care professionals often recommend a healthy diet, exercise, and a drug called metformin as an early approach to treating type 2 diabetes. A second drug is sometimes added if blood glucose becomes hard to control.

A recent clinical trial compared four common diabetes drugs to see which would be best to add. The study enrolled more than 5,000 people. Participants received metformin along with another drug. The second drug was either sitagliptin, liraglutide, glimepiride, or insulin glargine U-100.

After about five years, all four drugs improved blood glucose levels when added to metformin. Liraglutide and insulin glargine improved blood glucose levels slightly better than the others. However, nearly three of every four study participants were still unable to maintain their blood glucose targets by the end of the study.

There were also slight differences in the medications’ effects on blood glucose, heart disease, and other conditions. For instance, the liraglutide or insulin glargine groups maintained their target blood glucose levels for the longest time. But the liraglutide group was more likely to have digestive issues.

“This study was designed to provide health care providers with important information on how to guide the long-term management of type 2 diabetes,” says the study’s NIH project scientist, Dr. Henry Burch. “These results can now be used in the decision-making process for each individual patient.”