n Cardiovascular Journal of Africa - Optimal utilisation of sulphonylureas in resource-constrained settings : review article

Volume 25, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1995-1892
  • E-ISSN: 1680-0745



Sulphonylureas (SUs) are oral anti-diabetic drugs (OADs) that were introduced more than 60 years ago. Clinicians are familiar with their use and they remain extensively used. However, the SU class is associated with adverse effects of weight gain and hypoglycaemia. In addition, their effects on cardiovascular events remain contentious. Newer classes of anti-diabetic agents have been developed and these agents are weight neutral (di-peptidyl peptidase IV inhibitors), while others reduce weight (glucagon-like peptide analogues and sodium glucose co-transporter inhibitors). Furthermore, the newer agents are less likely to cause hypoglycaemia and have a potentially better cardiovascular safety profile. However, the newer agents are more costly than SUs and their long-term safety is unknown. It is therefore likely that SUs will continue to be used, and more so in resource-limited settings. One may mitigate the adverse effects of weight gain and hypoglycaemia associated with the SU class by using members within this class that are less probable to cause these adverse effects. Furthermore, the specific SU must be used at the lowest effective therapeutic dose. In patients at high risk of SU-induced hypoglycaemic episodes (frail, clinically significant renal impairment), or patients in whom hypoglycaemic episodes may have devastating effects (bus drivers), newer anti-diabetic agents may be a justifiable alternative option.

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