The Painfully Slow Death of a Common, Deadly Diabetic Drug

Glucotrol (glipizide). Glyburide.  Glucovance.  It goes by many names, but they all contain the diabetic drug sulfonylurea.

It is a compound that basically forces the beta cells of the pancreas, the cells that release insulin, to work harder.  At first glance, this may sound like a good idea.  But all diabetics already have problems with the way they produce insulin as well as the way that insulin reacts with each individual cell.  So, coming full circle, the sulfonylurea class of drug forces the body to do what it already having problems doing.

The first generation of sulfonylureas were introduced in the US in 1955 and quickly became one of the most popular classes of drugs used to treat diabetes, and accounts for about 25% of the prescriptions written for diabetic medications.

Given the length of time this class of drugs has been used and the volume of prescriptions written, one would think that all the bugs have been worked out and all the dangers and side effects are well known.


About a decade ago, researchers started to realize that this class of drugs had two big shortfalls:

  1. The sulfonylureas destroy the beta cells of the pancreas, increasing the chance that the type 2 diabetic will become an insulin dependent type 1 diabetic.  This is very well established.
  2. This drug is linked to higher rates of deaths in diabetics, most commonly due to cardiovascular related causes.

This particular study just continues to confirm the fact that this class of drugs is bad for the heart.  Considering that 70% of diabetics die of cardiovascular related complications, this is not a good thing.

Researchers looked at 115 trials, 62 of which reported information on major cardiovascular events.  Here’s what they found:

  • Sulfonylureas increased with risk of stroke by 28%.
  • Overall risk of death was increased by 22% with sulfonylureas

Keep in mind that this is a drug used to protect diabetics from damage from the condition.  Ironically, this class of drugs does nothing of the sort.  Rather, this class of drugs destroys the very cells that are needed to protect against diabetes while, on the even darker side, patients taking this class of drugs are more likely to die, most likely from heart disease and stroke.

It would seem that the risk of dying from all the available diabetic drugs is increased.  Given that I’m a “lifestyle guy,” this would be the point at which I would bring up the fact that lifestyle remains the ONLY answer to avoiding and managing diabetes.  Period.  Any other path will kill you before it saves you.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.