Diabetes Meds: Do These Medicines Save Lives?

If it weren’t so sad it would be funny.

There’s a big debate among medical researchers about whether one medicine for type 2 diabetes is more dangerous than another. One of them (rosiglitazone) may cause more heart attacks than the other one (pioglitazone). But the debate misses the point. The important question is, “do these medicines save lives?”

While we know that both can lower blood sugar numbers, neither drug has been proven to help patients live longer. In fact, of all of the medications for type 2 diabetes, only one of them, metformin, seems to help patients live longer.

This question is important because many diabetes medicines are actually harmful. A couple of years ago, the ACCORD study showed that diabetics who took extra medicine (including the “glitazones above) to lower their blood sugar further were actually more likely to die. Not a great trade-off in my book. Patients who are given less medication and had higher blood sugars were less likely to die. Don’t you think that most patients would rather live longer with high blood sugar than die sooner with better numbers? Shouldn’t they at least be informed of these facts?

Before we spend millions more trying to decide which of these drugs is safer, we first need to know if they are safe or effective. Until someone proves that that these costly and risky drugs are worth using, I won’t be prescribing them…especially when safe ways to lower blood sugar including diet and exercise and various supplements are already available.

Micheal Doyle, MD Michael E. Doyle, MD, is a board-certified family physician with nearly two decades of clinical experience. At Darien Integrative Medicine in Darien, Connecticut, he combines his extensive experience in both conventional and alternative medicine to offer his patients uniquely safe and effective care.

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