Preventing Unnecessary Costs of Drug-Induced Hypoglycemia in Older Adults with Type 2 Diabetes in the United States and Canada

PLoS One. 2016 Sep 20;11(9):e0162951. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162951. eCollection 2016.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Trees
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / economics*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced
  • Hypoglycemia / economics*
  • Hypoglycemia / epidemiology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / economics*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Incidence
  • Insulin / adverse effects
  • Insulin / economics
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Metformin / adverse effects
  • Metformin / economics
  • Metformin / therapeutic use
  • Models, Economic
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / economics*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds / adverse effects
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds / economics
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Thiazolidinediones / adverse effects
  • Thiazolidinediones / economics
  • Thiazolidinediones / therapeutic use
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Metformin