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. 2019 Sep 19;322(12):1-11.
doi: 10.1001/jama.2019.13206. Online ahead of print.

Association of Treatment With Metformin vs Sulfonylurea With Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events Among Patients With Diabetes and Reduced Kidney Function

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Association of Treatment With Metformin vs Sulfonylurea With Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events Among Patients With Diabetes and Reduced Kidney Function

Christianne L Roumie et al. JAMA. .
Free PMC article


Importance: Before 2016, safety concerns limited metformin use in patients with kidney disease; however, the effectiveness of metformin on clinical outcomes in patients with reduced kidney function remains unknown.

Objective: To compare major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) among patients with diabetes and reduced kidney function who continued treatment with metformin or a sulfonylurea.

Design, setting, and participants: Retrospective cohort study of US veterans receiving care within the national Veterans Health Administration, with data supplemented by linkage to Medicare, Medicaid, and National Death Index data from 2001 through 2016. There were 174 882 persistent new users of metformin and sulfonylureas who reached a reduced kidney function threshold (estimated glomerular filtration rate <60 mL/min/1.73 m2 or creatinine ≥1.4 mg/dL for women or ≥1.5 mg/dL for men). Patients were followed up from reduced kidney function threshold until MACE, treatment change, loss to follow-up, death, or study end (December 2016).

Exposures: New users of metformin or sulfonylurea monotherapy who continued treatment with their glucose-lowering medication after reaching reduced kidney function.

Main outcomes and measures: MACE included hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction, stroke, transient ischemic attack, or cardiovascular death. The analyses used propensity score weighting to compare the cause-specific hazard of MACE between treatments and estimate cumulative risk accounting for the competing risks of changing therapy or noncardiovascular death.

Results: There were 67 749 metformin and 28 976 sulfonylurea persistent monotherapy users; the weighted cohort included 24 679 metformin and 24 799 sulfonylurea users (median age, 70 years [interquartile range {IQR}, 62.8-77.8]; 48 497 men [98%]; and 40 476 white individuals [82%], with median estimated glomerular filtration rate of 55.8 mL/min/1.73 m2 [IQR, 51.6-58.2] and hemoglobin A1c level of 6.6% [IQR, 6.1%-7.2%] at cohort entry). During follow-up (median, 1.0 year for metformin vs 1.2 years for sulfonylurea), there were 1048 MACE outcomes (23.0 per 1000 person-years) among metformin users and 1394 events (29.2 per 1000 person-years) among sulfonylurea users. The cause-specific adjusted hazard ratio of MACE for metformin was 0.80 (95% CI, 0.75-0.86) compared with sulfonylureas, yielding an adjusted rate difference of 5.8 (95% CI, 4.1-7.3) fewer events per 1000 person-years of metformin use compared with sulfonylurea use.

Conclusions and relevance: Among patients with diabetes and reduced kidney function persisting with monotherapy, treatment with metformin, compared with a sulfonylurea, was associated with a lower risk of MACE.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Roumie reported receiving grants from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Dr Chipman reported receiving grants from the VHA, a TL1 Scholar award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and a graduate student award from Vanderbilt University. Dr Hackstadt reported receiving grants from the VHA and the NIH. Dr Grijalva reported consultantships for Pfizer, Merck, and Sanofi; grants from Sanofi, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the NIH, and the Food and Drug Administration. Dr Griffin reported grants from the VHA, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No other disclosures were reported.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.. Eligible Patients in the Veterans Health Administration
aMatched weighted cohort was formed using matching weights, derived using propensity scores, and up or downweighting patients to more closely resemble each other.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.. Competing Risk Cumulative Incidence Match-Weighted Cohort
Aalen-Johansen cumulative probability of incident major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) among sulfonylurea vs metformin cohort with reduced kidney function. The median follow-up time in the weighted cohort was 1.0 year (interquartile range, 0.4-2.6) for patients taking metformin and 1.2 years (interquartile range, 0.5-2.7) for sulfonylurea users.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.. Adjusted Hazard Ratios for Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events by Subgroups
FDA indicates Food and Drug Administration. aP value for eGFR prime term (it was modeled as a spline so there are multiple terms).

Comment in

  • JAMA. doi: 10.1001/jama.2019.14533
  • JAMA. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.0301

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