Background: The costs of drug-induced hypoglycemia are a critical but often neglected component of value-based arguments to reduce tight glycemic control in older adults with type 2 diabetes.
Methods: An economic (decision-tree) analysis compared rates, costs, quality-adjusted life-years, and incremental costs per quality-adjusted life-year gained associated with mild, moderate and severe hypoglycemic events for 6 glucose-lowering medication classes in type 2 diabetic adults aged 65-79 versus those 80 years and older. The national U.S. (Center for Medicare Services) and Canadian public health payer perspectives were adopted.
Findings: Incidence rates of drug-induced hypoglycemia were the highest for basal insulin and sulfonylureas: 8.64 and 4.32 events per person-year in 65-79 year olds, and 12.06 and 6.03 events per person-year for 80 years and older. In both the U.S. and Canada, metformin dominated sulfonylureas, basal insulin and glucagon-like peptide1 receptor agonists. Relative to sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones had the lowest incremental cost-effectiveness ratios in the U.S. and dominated sulfonylureas in Canada for adults 80 years and older. Relative to sulfonylureas, dipeptidyl peptidase4 inhibitors were cost-effective for adults 80 years and older in both countries, and for 65-79 year olds in Canada. Annual costs of hypoglycemia for older adults attaining very tight glycemic control with the use of insulin or sulfonylureas were estimated at U.S.$509,214,473 in the U.S. and CAN$65,497,849 in Canada.
Conclusions: Optimizing drug therapy for older type 2 diabetic adults through the avoidance of drug-induced hypoglycemia will dramatically improve patient health while also generating millions of dollars by saving unnecessary medical costs.