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Popular Diabetes Meds Put to the Test
Date:11/6/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with diabetes who were treated with the popular oral medication metformin face a lower risk of heart attack, stroke or death than those taking sulfonylureas, another common option, according to a large, multi-year study.

Researchers who tracked hundreds of thousands of veterans with type 2 diabetes found that users of metformin (brand names include Glucophage and Fortamet) faced a "modest but clinically important" 21 percent lower risk of hospitalization because of cardiovascular complications than users of sulfonylureas (glyburide and glipizide).

The researchers cautioned, however, that they couldn't pinpoint whether metformin protects against heart issues or whether, by contrast, sufonylureas pose a specific threat to heart health. It's possible that both are true.

Although the researchers said the findings suggest metformin should be the preferred oral treatment for diabetes, they also stressed that it's not yet clear whether their findings would apply to women or other racial and ethnic groups, given that 97 percent of their study participants were men and 75 percent were white.

"Metformin and sulfonylureas are the two most commonly prescribed medications for type 2 diabetes treatment," said study lead author Dr. Christianne Roumie, of the Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center at the Nashville Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tennessee. "Both do a very good job of controlling a patient's blood sugar level."

However, "metformin may do a better job at preventing hospitalization for heart attacks and strokes or death," she added. "Because of this it should be preferred as the starting medication for patients with diabetes."

About 8 percent of people in the United States have diabetes. Most have type 2 diabetes, which means they don't metabolize blood sugar (glucose) properly. Although there is no cure for ty
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