Changes in the use of glucose-lowering drugs: A Danish nationwide study

Diabetes Obes Metab. 2023 Apr;25(4):1002-1010. doi: 10.1111/dom.14947. Epub 2023 Jan 3.


Aim: To investigate changes in the pattern of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes in Denmark from 2005 to 2021.

Materials and methods: A nationwide, population-based drug utilization study based on medical databases covering the Danish population was conducted. We assessed incident and prevalent use patterns among all 441 205 individuals initiating at least one non-insulin, glucose-lowering drug.

Results: The rate of new users of non-insulin, glucose-lowering drugs increased from 2005, peaked in 2011, decreased to stable levels during 2013 to 2019, then increased dramatically during 2020-2021. The prevalence of use increased from 2.1% (in 2005) to 5.0% (in 2021) of the entire adult population. In 2021, metformin comprised 39% of all glucose-lowering drug consumption, followed by insulin (17%), sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitors (SGLT-2is) (17%), glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RAs) (16%) and dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors (7.5%). Overall, 56% of users were on monotherapy, 28% used dual therapy, while 13% and 2.8% used three and four drug classes, respectively. Both the intensity and diversity of therapies increased substantially over time, with 15 different treatment regimens each covering more than 1% of users in 2021. General practitioners prescribed 88% of all glucose-lowering drugs. Marked shifts towards GLP-1RA initiation by general practitioners and SGLT-2i initiation by specialists were observed, and changing user profiles suggested increasing use for non-diabetes indications.

Conclusions: The rate of new users of non-insulin, glucose-lowering drugs has increased in recent years and the prevalence of glucose-lowering drug use increases steadily. Glucose-lowering drugs are mainly prescribed by general practitioners, and the intensity, diversity and indications of glucose-lowering treatment are increasing.

Keywords: antidiabetics; drug utilization; glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists; glucose-lowering medication; pharmacoepidemiology; sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitors; type 2 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Denmark
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / drug therapy
  • Dipeptidyl-Peptidase IV Inhibitors* / therapeutic use
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor / agonists
  • Glucose / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Insulin, Regular, Human / therapeutic use
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors* / therapeutic use


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Glucose
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors
  • Dipeptidyl-Peptidase IV Inhibitors
  • Insulin
  • Insulin, Regular, Human