Diabetes oral medication initiation and intensification: patient views compared with current treatment guidelines

Diabetes Educ. 2011 Jan-Feb;37(1):78-84. doi: 10.1177/0145721710388427. Epub 2010 Nov 29.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare patient perceptions about medication management with principles underlying American Diabetes Association (ADA) published treatment algorithms.

Methods: Six focus groups (4 English and 2 Spanish) were conducted with 50 patients with type 2 diabetes. Patients were asked about their prior experiences with initiating and changing oral medicines. They were also shown a medication plan for a hypothetical patient depicting future potential changes to achieve glycemic control. Coded responses were mapped to 3 concepts implicit in the ADA recommended treatment algorithm: (1) prescribing medicines to achieve A1c goal is beneficial, (2) medical regimens are generally intensified, and (3) intensification should be timely.

Results: Patient perceptions contrasted markedly with the treatment algorithm: (1) most patients had negative perceptions of medication initiation, viewing this event as evidence of personal failure and an increased burden; (2) patients equated medication intensification with increased risk for diabetes-related complications (rather than a step to reduce future risk) and viewed de-escalation as a primary goal; and (3) no patients expressed concerns about delays in medication intensification. Patients responded very favorably to an individualized medication plan depicting future potential changes.

Conclusions: Patients in this study described a conceptual model for medication therapy that contrasted in critical ways from the principles of current treatment guidelines. Underscoring the key role of patient-provider communication, the results suggest that effective counseling should also include an informed discussion of future medication intensification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Boston
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic


  • Hypoglycemic Agents