Diabetes Medications: Riskier Than You Think

Filed Under: Blood Sugar, Diabetes
Last Reviewed 11/12/2015

Diabetes Medication: Riskier Than You Think

Although diabetes medications may be effective in lowering blood sugar, most are no more than a Band-Aid therapy for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes medications lower glucose levels but do nothing to address the underlying condition. Plus, diabetes medications have serious side effects.

Diabetes Medications Are 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 medications 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 About the Dangers of Diabetes Medications for More Than 40 Years

The news about ACCORD was not surprising, considering researchers have known about the fatal complications of diabetes medications 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 diabetes medications had a 250 to 300 percent higher death rate than those taking the placebo.

Here are some facts about specific diabetes 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 medications, and the second-most widely used type of drugs 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 clearly 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

DISCLAIMER: The content of DrWhitaker.com is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are "generally informational" and not specifically applicable to any individual's medical problems, concerns and/or needs.

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