Looking to lead a stronger, healthier life?
Sign up for our Wellness Wire newsletter for all sorts of nutrition, fitness, and wellness wisdom.

Now we’re in this together.
Thanks for subscribing and having us along on your health and wellness journey.

See all Healthline's newsletters »
It's a Type 2 Life
It's a Type 2 Life

San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetes

See all posts »

Do Sulfonylureas Add to Cardiovascular Risks?

One of the challenges to having type 2 is trying to stay abreast of new research about the disease. That’s why routinely checking out sites like Healthline on the Internet can be a big help when it comes to talking to your doctor or endocrinologist.

For example, I just ran across a research report that says metformin users may enjoy a substantially lower risk of being hospitalized for cardiovascular problems (heart attack, stroke) than type 2s who take sulfonylureas.

The two are the most common “gateway” drugs doctors prescribe to newly diagnosed type 2s. Metformin (brand names Glucophage and Fortamet) works by controlling the liver’s production of glucose, while sulfonylureas (such as glyburide and glipizide) work by stimulating insulin production.

A several-year study of 250,000 military veterans with type 2 diabetes has concluded that people who take metformin are 21 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die from cardiovascular conditions than people on metformin.

(It’s important to note that the patients under study had no other health problems other than type 2 when they began taking either metformin or sulfonylureas.)

Researchers said the 21 percent difference is “clinically important,” but can’t really say why one drug seems to pose a lesser cardiovascular risk than the other.

Also, although the 250,000-member patient cohort was huge, it was also 75 percent white and 97 percent male. So it’s unknown what percentage differences might appear in a large sampling of women or other ethnicities.

This isn’t the first time I’ve run across this possible link between sulfonylureas and increase cardiovascular risks. However, the thing to remember is that we still don’t know why sulfonylureas are associated with heightened CV risks.

Because there’s a big difference between associated with something and being the cause of it, I’m discussing the sulfonylurea/CV link as a heads up, not a dire warning. Part of staying informed about our condition is understanding that there simply is no such thing as a fool-proof therapy that has no side effects. 

Still, as you discuss your diabetes medications with your healthcare provider, it’s useful to bring up any concerns you have about possible ill effects. It helps the relationships when your provider sees you taking the time to be informed and really understanding that you yourself are the ultimate manager of your diabetes treatment.



  • 1

Tags: Drugs

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Recommended for You

  • Tomorrow Belongs to Us

    By: Patrick Totty
    Nov 08, 2012

    Every one of us who has diabetes, and the people who love us, hope for the day when science finds a way to cure our disease. Not just kick it into remission, but cure. In the meantime, until that great day, it’s good to remember just how ...

    Read more »

  • Small A1c Drop, Big Life Expectancy Gain

    By: Patrick Totty
    Nov 01, 2012

    While controversy swirls around what A1c percentage is ideal for type 2s, no one denies that lower is better. Currently, the recommended A1c target is 6.5%, equivalent to a daily average of140 mg/dL. For older people who’ve been diagnosed for...

    Read more »

  • The Panic in Needle Park

    By: Patrick Totty
    Sep 27, 2012

    "The Panic in Needle Park” was the name of a 1971 film about an ill-fated love affair between two New York City heroin addicts. (It featured a young actor named Al Pacino in his second-ever Hollywood role.) By 2022, however, that title might ...

    Read more »

  • Hitting the Road with Type 2

    By: Patrick Totty
    Sep 12, 2012

    My wife and I will soon be driving out from the San Francisco Bay Area to southern Utah. We haven’t visited the glorious red rock country there in years, so we’ve been anticipating this trip for months. Our goal is to shun freeways and inter...

    Read more »


About the Author

Bay Area resident Patrick Totty was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July, 2003.

Recent Blog Posts