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Diabetologia. 2013 May;56(5):973-84. doi: 10.1007/s00125-013-2856-6. Epub 2013 Mar 15.

Estimating the effect of sulfonylurea on HbA1c in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6GG, UK.



Sulfonylureas are widely prescribed glucose-lowering medications for diabetes, but the extent to which they improve glycaemia is poorly documented. This systematic review evaluates how sulfonylurea treatment affects glycaemic control.


Medline, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library and clinical trials registries were searched to identify double-blinded randomised controlled trials of fixed-dose sulfonylurea monotherapy or sulfonylurea added on to other glucose-lowering treatments. The primary outcome assessed was change in HbA1c, and secondary outcomes were adverse events, insulin dose and change in body weight.


Thirty-one trials with a median duration of 16 weeks were included in the meta-analysis. Sulfonylurea monotherapy (nine trials) lowered HbA1c by 1.51% (17 mmol/mol) more than placebo (95% CI, 1.25, 1.78). Sulfonylureas added to oral diabetes treatment (four trials) lowered HbA1c by 1.62% (18 mmol/mol; 95% CI 1.0, 2.24) compared with the other treatment, and sulfonylurea added to insulin (17 trials) lowered HbA1c by 0.46% (6 mmol/mol; 95% CI 0.24, 0.69) and lowered insulin dose. Higher sulfonylurea doses did not reduce HbA1c more than lower doses. Sulfonylurea treatment resulted in more hypoglycaemic events (RR 2.41, 95% CI 1.41, 4.10) but did not significantly affect the number of other adverse events. Trial length, sulfonylurea type and duration of diabetes contributed to heterogeneity.


Sulfonylurea monotherapy lowered HbA1c level more than previously reported, and we found no evidence that increasing sulfonylurea doses resulted in lower HbA1c. HbA1c is a surrogate endpoint, and we were unable to examine long-term endpoints in these predominately short-term trials, but sulfonylureas appear to be associated with an increased risk of hypoglycaemic events.

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