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New research claims diabetes drug has higher risk of heart disease

New research claims that sulphonylureas, a class of drugs used to treat Type 2 diabetes, carry a greater risk of heart failure and death compared with the diabetes drug metformin.

A team of researchers from Imperial College London investigated the risk of heart attack, congestive heart failure and death from any cause associated with the prescription of different types of diabetes drugs.

They used data from 91,521 men and women (average age 65 years) with diabetes included in the UK General Practice Research Database between 1990 and 2005. Factors that could potentially affect the results were taken into account. Metformin was the most commonly prescribed drug followed by second-generation sulphonylureas.

Possible higher risk

The study found that compared with metformin, both first- and second-generation sulphonylureas were associated with up to 61 per cent increased risk of death, and second generation sulphonylureas with up to 30 per cent increased risk of congestive heart failure.

Research should be treated with caution

“This study looks at the relative risk of the various drugs used to treat Type 2 diabetes," said Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK.

"It is a retrospective study and there is nothing particularly new revealed here.

“There are several limitations of using a retrospective cohort study to compare the effects of groups of drugs and the authors list a number of them along with their attempts at mitigation. However, we have to treat the results and the interpretation of them with some caution.

“Diabetes UK would not advise people with Type 2 diabetes to stop taking sulphonylureas based on the results of this research.  If you are concerned about taking this medication you should contact your GP or diabetes healthcare team.”

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