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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e38707. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038707. Epub 2012 Jun 5.

Differential effects of comorbidity on antihypertensive and glucose-regulating treatment in diabetes mellitus--a cohort study.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Faculty of Medical Science, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.



Comorbidity is often mentioned as interfering with "optimal" treatment decisions in diabetes care. It is suggested that diabetes-related comorbidity will increase adequate treatment, whereas diabetes-unrelated comorbidity may decrease this process of care. We hypothesized that these effects differ according to expected priority of the conditions.


We evaluated the relationship between comorbidity and treatment intensification in a study of 11,248 type 2 diabetes patients using the GIANTT (Groningen Initiative to Analyse type 2 diabetes Treatment) database. We formed a cohort of patients with a systolic blood pressure ≥ 140 mmHg (6,820 hypertensive diabetics), and a cohort of patients with an HbA1c ≥ 7% (3,589 hyperglycemic diabetics) in 2007. We differentiated comorbidity by diabetes-related or unrelated conditions and by priority. High priority conditions include conditions that are life-interfering, incident or requiring new medication treatment. We performed Cox regression analyses to assess association with treatment intensification, defined as dose increase, start, or addition of drugs.


In both the hypertensive and hyperglycemic cohort, only patients with incident diabetes-related comorbidity had a higher chance of treatment intensification (HR 4.48, 2.33-8.62 (p<0.001) for hypertensives; HR 2.37, 1.09-5.17 (p = 0.030) for hyperglycemics). Intensification of hypertension treatment was less likely when a new glucose-regulating drug was prescribed (HR 0.24, 0.06-0.97 (p = 0.046)). None of the prevalent or unrelated comorbidity was significantly associated with treatment intensification.


Diabetes-related comorbidity induced better risk factor treatment only for incident cases, implying that appropriate care is provided more often when complications occur. Diabetes-unrelated comorbidity did not affect hypertension or hyperglycemia management, even when it was incident or life-interfering. Thus, the observed "undertreatment" in diabetes care cannot be explained by constraints caused by such comorbidity.

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