Drug-induced hypoglycemia. A review of 1418 cases

Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 1989 Mar;18(1):163-83.


The present review catalogues 1418 reported cases of drug-induced hypoglycemia. The main findings are that sulfonylureas (especially chlorpropamide and glyburide), either alone or with a second hypoglycemic or potentiating agent, still account for 63% of all cases; that alcohol, propranolol, and salicylate, either singly or with another hypoglycemic drug, are the next most frequent offenders (19% of the total); and that one older drug (quinine) and three new ones (pentamidine, ritodrine, and disopyramide) have caused an additional 7% of all episodes of severe hypoglycemia. The clinical factors that set the stage for drug-induced hypoglycemia are still restricted food intake, age, hepatic disease, and renal disease, both individually and even more so in combination. Drug-induced hypoglycemia continues to be so common that virtually every unconscious patient should be considered hypoglycemic until immediate estimation of the blood sugar level rules it in or out. If ruled in, the clinician should promptly start 10% intravenous glucose and plan to maintain it uninterruptedly for 1 or more days, with added glucagon, hydrocortisone, and diazoxide administration if necessary, until sustained hyperglycemia guarantees that all drug effects have worn off.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coma / chemically induced
  • Coma / diagnosis
  • Coma / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced*
  • Hypoglycemia / diagnosis
  • Hypoglycemia / therapy
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Salicylates / adverse effects
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds / adverse effects


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Salicylates
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds