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Drugs Aging. 2010 Feb 1;27(2):87-94. doi: 10.2165/11316430-000000000-00000.

ACE inhibitor and angiotensin II type 1 receptor antagonist therapies in elderly patients with diabetes mellitus: are they underutilized?

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Renal Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02120, USA.


Diabetes mellitus is highly prevalent in older adults in the industrialized world. These patients are at high risk of complications from diabetes, including diabetic kidney disease. ACE inhibitors and their newer cousins, angiotensin II type 1 receptor antagonists (angiotensin receptor blockers [ARBs]), are powerful medications for the prevention of progression of diabetic renal disease. Unfortunately, among the elderly, these medications have been underutilized. The reasons for this include physician concerns regarding patient age and limited life expectancy and potential complications of ACE inhibitor or ARB use, specifically an increase in creatinine levels and hyperkalaemia. As discussed in this article, there have been several studies that show that the effects of inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system can be beneficial for the treatment of cardiovascular disease and renal disease among elderly patients with diabetes and that the potential risks mentioned above are no greater in this group than in the general population. For these reasons, several professional societies recommend that elderly patients with diabetes and hypertension (systolic blood pressure >or=140 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure >or=90 mmHg) be treated with an ACE inhibitor or ARB (as is recommended for younger diabetics). Use of ACE inhibitors or ARBs is also recommended for those with cardiovascular disease or those who are at risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, in the management of diabetic kidney disease in elderly patients, treatment with ACE inhibitors or ARBs is also recommended to reduce the risk or slow the progression of nephropathy. Renal function and potassium levels should be monitored within the first 12 weeks of initiation of these medications, with each dose increase, and on a yearly basis thereafter. This article summarizes the current guidelines on the use of ACE inhibitors and ARBs in older adults with diabetes, reviews the evidence for their use in the elderly population, and suggests potential reasons for the observed underuse of these powerful drugs in this vulnerable population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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