Background: Severe hypoglycaemia is a potentially life-threatening condition. The aim of the present study was to compare the frequency of severe hypoglycaemia in patients with type 2 diabetes treated with glimepiride versus glibenclamide.
Methods: This prospective, population-based, 4-year study examined the incidence of severe hypoglycaemia in a region of Germany with 200 000 inhabitants. The blood glucose of all 30 768 patients who attended the emergency department of the region's central hospital was determined to detect severe hypoglycaemia, which was defined by the requirement for intravenous glucose or glucagon injection and blood glucose value of <2.8 mmol/l. Additionally, 6631/7804 patients (85%) attended to by the emergency medical services received a blood glucose test at the emergency site. The regional prescribing frequency of both sulphonylureas was determined by an independent external institute.
Results: Despite glimepiride being prescribed more frequently than glibenclamide (6976 vs 6789 person-years), glimepiride induced fewer episodes of hypoglycaemia (6 vs 38 episodes); one episode occurred with a combination of the two preparations. The incidence of severe hypoglycaemia was 0.86/1000 person-years for glimepiride and 5.6/1000 person-years for glibenclamide. The characteristics of the 45 patients who presented with sulphonylurea-associated hypoglycaemia were as follows: mean age 79 years (95% CI 75.2; 82.6); glycosylated haemoglobin 5.4% (95% CI 5.1; 5.7); impaired renal function in 62%.
Conclusions: In people with type 2 diabetes, glimepiride was associated with fewer episodes of severe hypoglycaemia than glibenclamide in routine clinical use. However, severe hypoglycaemia did occur with glimepiride and may be minimised if treatment targets are determined on an individual basis.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.