Risk of hypoglycaemia with oral antidiabetic agents in patients with Type 2 diabetes

Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2003 Oct;111(7):405-14. doi: 10.1055/s-2003-44287.


In patients with Type 2 diabetes, the appropriate intensity of glucose control is determined by age, life expectancy, and the presence of concomitant disease. Geriatric patients are especially susceptible to hypoglycaemia and therefore particular care should be taken in this group characterized by polypharmacy, renal or hepatic dysfunction, cardiovascular multimorbidity and malnutrition. As hypoglycaemia is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality, treatment regimens for diabetes should minimize the occurrence of hypoglycaemic episodes and be tailored to the patient's individual needs. The pharmacological options for treating Type 2 diabetes have increased considerably and the risk of hypoglycaemia of the currently available drugs varies considerably. Metformin, thiazolidinediones, and acarbose, oral antidiabetic drugs that decrease insulin resistance or postprandial glucose absorption, are associated with a low risk of hypoglycaemia. These drugs can also be used effectively in various combination regimens; however, by improving insulin sensitivity, combinations of metformin and thiolidinediones with sulphonylureas or meglitinides may considerably increase the risk of hypoglycaemia. On account of its complex pharmacoprofile glibenclamide is a problematic substance carrying a high risk of hypoglycaemia. There are limited preliminary data indicating that, under routine conditions, glimepiride may be associated with a lower risk of hypoglycaemia than glibenclamide and is no more likely to cause hypoglycaemia than other shorter-acting agents such as gliclazide and glipizide. Nateglinide and repaglinide as short-acting insulin secretagogues may be associated with a reduced risk of hypoglycaemia compared with glibenclamide, in particular when dosed flexibly. Repaglinide might be beneficial in individuals with renal impairment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors


  • Hypoglycemic Agents