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JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Mar;175(3):356-62. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7345.

Potential overtreatment of diabetes mellitus in older adults with tight glycemic control.

Author information

1
Section of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut2Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut.
2
Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut3Section of General Internal Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, N.
3
Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, California.
4
Knowledge and Evaluation Research Unit and the Division of Health Care Policy and Research, Department of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
5
Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, California7Division of Geriatrics, University of California, San Francisco.

Abstract

IMPORTANCE:

In older adults with multiple serious comorbidities and functional limitations, the harms of intensive glycemic control likely exceed the benefits.

OBJECTIVES:

To examine glycemic control levels among older adults with diabetes mellitus by health status and to estimate the prevalence of potential overtreatment of diabetes.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:

Cross-sectional analysis of the data on 1288 older adults (≥65 years) with diabetes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2001 through 2010 who had a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) measurement. All analyses incorporated complex survey design to produce nationally representative estimates.

EXPOSURES:

Health status categories: very complex/poor, based on difficulty with 2 or more activities of daily living or dialysis dependence; complex/intermediate, based on difficulty with 2 or more instrumental activities of daily living or presence of 3 or more chronic conditions; and relatively healthy if none of these were present.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:

Tight glycemic control (HbA1c level, <7%) and use of diabetes medications likely to result in hypoglycemia (insulin or sulfonylureas).

RESULTS:

Of 1288 older adults with diabetes, 50.7% (95% CI, 46.6%-54.8%), representing 3.1 million (95% CI, 2.7-3.5), were relatively healthy, 28.1% (95% CI, 24.8%-31.5%), representing 1.7 million (95% CI, 1.4-2.0), had complex/intermediate health, and 21.2% (95% CI, 18.3%-24.4%), representing 1.3 million (95% CI, 1.1-1.5), had very complex/poor health. Overall, 61.5% (95% CI, 57.5%-65.3%), representing 3.8 million (95% CI, 3.4-4.2), had an HbA1c level of less than 7%; this proportion did not differ across health status categories (62.8% [95% CI, 56.9%-68.3%]) were relatively healthy, 63.0% (95% CI, 57.0%-68.6%) had complex/intermediate health, and 56.4% (95% CI, 49.7%-62.9%) had very complex/poor health (P = .26). Of the older adults with an HbA1c level of less than 7%, 54.9% (95% CI, 50.4%-59.3%) were treated with either insulin or sulfonylureas; this proportion was similar across health status categories (50.8% [95% CI, 45.1%-56.5%] were relatively healthy, 58.7% [95% CI, 49.4%-67.5%] had complex/intermediate health, and 60.0% [95% CI, 51.4%-68.1%] had very complex/poor health; P = .14). During the 10 study years, there were no significant changes in the proportion of older adults with an HbA1c level of less than 7% (P = .34), the proportion with an HbA1c level of less than 7% who had complex/intermediate or very complex/poor health (P = .27), or the proportion with an HbA1c level of less than 7% who were treated with insulin or sulfonylureas despite having complex/intermediate or very complex/poor health (P = .65).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:

Although the harms of intensive treatment likely exceed the benefits for older patients with complex/intermediate or very complex/poor health status, most of these adults reached tight glycemic targets between 2001 and 2010. Most of them were treated with insulin or sulfonylureas, which may lead to severe hypoglycemia. Our findings suggest that a substantial proportion of older adults with diabetes were potentially overtreated.

PMID:
25581565
PMCID:
PMC4426991
DOI:
10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7345
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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