Diabetes Medication: Riskier Than You Think

by Dr. Julian Whitaker
Filed Under: Blood Sugar, Diabetes
Last Reviewed 02/15/2014

Diabetes Medication: Riskier Than You Think

Although diabetes medication may be effective at lowering blood sugar, it is no more than a Band-Aid therapy for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes medication lowers glucose levels but does nothing to address the underlying condition. Plus, diabetes medications have serious side effects.

Diabetes Medication is Dangerous

If you haven’t heard about the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) study, let me tell you about it—because it sums up nicely just how dangerous many blood sugar–lowering diabetes medication are.

This large, government-funded trial was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of various medication regimens for reducing heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease in patients with type 2 diabetes. One arm of the study was specifically set up to test the widely held assumption that more aggressive lowering of blood sugar would provide greater protection against heart disease.

However, in February 2008, that arm of ACCORD was abruptly shut down because it found just the opposite was true. Study participants who were on the most intensive drug regimens aimed at driving down blood sugar had a much higher cardiovascular death rate.

We’ve Known the Risks of Diabetes Medication for More Than 40 Years

The news about ACCORD was not surprising, considering researchers have known about the fatal complications of diabetes medication since 1969—when results of the University Group Diabetes Program were made public. Just like ACCORD, this study had to be stopped two years early because participants who were taking the diabetes medication had a 250 percent to 300 percent higher death rate than those taking the placebo.

Here are some facts about specific medications:

  • Phenformin/metformin (Glucophage). One of the two drugs used in the 1969 study, DBI (phenformin), was shown to be so deadly that it was taken off the market. Yet this drug’s close cousin, metformin (Glucophage) is the most popular diabetes medication used today and was the most frequently used drug in the ACCORD study.

  • Sulfonylureas. The other drug used in the 1969 study, Orinase (tolbutamide), was ultimately tattooed with a black-box warning stating that it dramatically increases death from heart attack. Orinase belongs to a class of drugs known as sulfonylureas, which includes dozens of popular medications that are still in use today, and the same black-box warning has appeared on all sulfonylureas since 1984.

  • Thiazolinediones (glitazones). Another class of diabetes medication, and the second-most widely used type of medication by ACCORD participants, is thiazolidinediones (also called glitazones), the most notorious of which is Avandia. Government experts estimate that Avandia may have caused as many as 100,000 heart attacks since coming onto the market in 1999.

I’d Rather Have No Treatment Than Drug Treatment

The pharmaceutical industry shoulders much of the responsibility for why these drugs are still on the market. These companies currently control the bulk of medical research, treatment guidelines, and physician “education.”

In my opinion, you’d be better off with no diabetes treatment program at all than with these drugs. Taking diabetes medication that lowers your blood sugar may make you think you’re doing better, but these pills are actually making you worse. That’s why I strongly recommend a more natural approach to diabetes treatment.

Note: If you are currently taking an oral hypoglycemic drug, don’t stop taking it cold turkey. You must work with your doctor to gradually discontinue the diabetes medication.

More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Diabetes Medication

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