Aims: A comparison of the frequency of severe hypoglycaemia leading to hospital admission in people with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) treated with long vs. short-acting sulphonylureas.
Methods: A community based study over a 12-year period in the population of the city of Basle, Switzerland. The number of diabetic patients treated with oral hypoglycaemic agents was established on the basis of tablet consumption and a defined daily dose, e.g. 7.5 mg for glibenclamide, and 50 mg for glibornuride.
Results: Twenty-eight Type 2 diabetic patients were admitted for severe hypoglycaemia, with a median age of 73 years. There were no deaths. Sixteen of these admissions were patients treated with long-acting sulphonylureas and 12 were patients treated with short-acting forms. Only 23.5% of the population with Type 2 DM in Basle were treated with long-acting sulphonylureas. With 30345 person-years of observation, the incidence of severe hypoglycaemia was 2.24 per 1000 person-years for long-acting sulphonylureas vs. 0.75 per 1000 person-year for short-acting forms, odds ratio 3.01 (95% confidence interval 1.35-6.77). Decreased food intake (nine patients) was a major contributing factor.
Conclusions: Severe hypoglycaemia leading to hospital admission is more common in elderly Type 2 diabetic patients treated with long-acting compared to short-acting sulphonylureas. Such long-acting sulphonylureas should be avoided.