College of Pharmacy assistant professor Olivia J. Phung, PharmD, has published an article proposing that using a certain class of diabetes medication could potentially increase risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
The article, published in the journal Diabetic Medicine on Sept. 16, 2013, was a meta-analysis combining evidence from 33 studies to show an association with increased cardiovascular events when using this class of drug.
Phung and her WesternU team were funded by Merck to evaluate long-term use of sulfonylureas, a group of drugs that lower the amount of glucose in blood, and to find evidence behind the warnings on package insert labels that say that there is an increase in cardiovascular occurrences with these drugs.
“”These results show that there is evidence of a potential association of this drug and potential harm to the patient with increased cardiovascular events,”” said Phung. “”It’s important for clinicians to be familiar with this so that they can be aware of the potential benefits and harms when prescribing these drugs.””
The finding warrants consideration in clinical practice when other treatment options may be available, Phung said.
“”Diabetes itself is already a risk factor for increased cardiovascular events, so we don’t want to be adding to that,”” Phung said.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends initial metformin as a drug therapy for most newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients. Sulfonylureas remain one of the most commonly prescribed add-on therapies when treatment with metformin by itself is insufficient to reach recommended targets, Phung reported in her paper.
Phung said that the study does not provide enough evidence to show a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Rather, with these mostly observational studies, there is evidence of an association.
College of Pharmacy assistant professor Emmanuelle Schwartzman, PharmD, CDE, and Robert Allen, PharmD ’12, who was a fourth-year student at the time of the review, were key contributors to the study.