Which Diabetes Drugs Cause Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia—aka low blood sugar—can kill you. The most common cause is medications taken by people with diabetes.

DRUGS THAT RARELY, IF EVER, CAUSE HYPOGLYCEMIA

Diabetics not being treated with pills or insulin rarely need to worry about hypoglycemia. That’s usually true also for prediabetics. Yes, some type 2 diabetics control their condition with diet and exercise alone, without drugs.

Similarly, diabetics treated only with diet, metformin, colesevalam, sodium-glucose co-transport 2 inhibitor (SGLT2 inhibitor), and/or an alpha-glucosidase inhibitor (acarbose, miglitol) should not have much, if any, trouble with hypoglycemia. The DPP4-inhibitors (sitagliptan and saxagliptin) do not seem to cause low glucose levels, whether used alone or combined with metformin or a thiazoladinedione. Thiazolidinediones by themselves cause hypoglycemia in only 1 to 3% of users, but might cause a higher percentage in people on a reduced calorie diet. Bromocriptine may slightly increase the risk of hypoglycemia. GLP-1 analogues rarely cause hypoglycemia, but they can.

DRUGS THAT CAUSE HYPOGLYCEMIA

Regardless of diet, diabetics are at risk for hypoglycemia if they use any of the following drug classes. Also listed are a few of the individual drugs in some classes:

  • insulins
  • sulfonylureas: glipizide, glyburide, glimiperide, chlorpropamide, acetohexamide, tolbutamide
  • meglitinides: repaglinide, nateglinide
  • pramlintide plus insulin
  • possibly GLP-1 analogues
  • GLP-1 analogues (exanatide, liragultide, albiglutide, dulaglutide) when used with insulin, sufonylureas, or meglitinides
  • possibly thiazolidinediones: pioglitazone, rosiglitazone
  • possibly bromocriptine

BECOME THE EXPERT ON YOUR OWN DRUGS

If you take drugs for diabetes, you need to be your own pharmaceutical expert. Don’t depend solely on your physician or pharmacist. Your doctor has to be familiar with 150–200 drugs, and the pharmacist, even more. You only need to master two or three, I hope. Here are important things to know about your drugs:

  • interactions with other drugs or supplements you take, whether prescription or over-the-counter
  • how to monitor for drug toxicity (e.g., periodic blood tests)
  • potential adverse effects
  • is the money-saving generic just as good as the brand-name drug
  • what’s the maximum dose and how often can the dose be adjusted
  • if you take a brand-name drug, what’s the generic name

Steve Parker, M.D.

low-carb mediterranean diet

Front cover of book

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The Peter Sheehan Diabetes Care Foundation Requests Your Help to Fight Diabetes

 

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The Executive Director of the aforementioned foundation contacted me and asked me to help spread the word about the work they are doing. Goals of this new foundation include diabetes prevention and improvement of diabetes care, especially in at-risk communities. Click the link for more information and consider contributing to their current crowdfunding effort.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Be Your Own Drug Expert

Open wide!

Open wide!

I recommend you become the expert on the diabetic drugs you take.

Don’t depend solely on your physician or pharmacist. Do research at reliable sources and keep written notes. With a little effort, you could quickly surpass your doctor’s knowledge of your specific drugs.

What are the side effects? How common are they? How soon do they work? Any interactions with other drugs? What’s the right dose, and how often can it be changed? Do you need blood tests to monitor for toxicity? How often? Who absolutely should not take this drug?

Along with everything else your doctor has to keep up with, he prescribes about a hundred drugs on a regular basis. You only have to learn about two or three. It could save your life.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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German Girl Pleads for Protection From Immigrants

I don’t know anyone living in Germany, or I’d alert them personally about this video. I do have four or five blog visitors from Germany daily. So this is for them.

If you watch the whole thing, you’ll learn the German words for cocktail, T shirt, and Taser.

As far as I know, this video is legitimate. The girl reportedly posted it on the German edition of Facebook, but it was censored (taken down).

Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

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What’s the Newcastle Diet?

Some of these are Newcastle-compliant

Some of these are Newcastle-compliant

Several years ago Prof. Roy Taylor and colleagues found they could apparently reverse type 2 diabetes with a very low-calorie diet. How low? 600–800 per day for eight weeks. His program—often called the Newcastle diet—has achieved some prominence in the United Kingdom but I don’t hear about it much over here across the pond. The clinical study in support of the program was very small—only 11 participants: 9 men and 2 women (with an average BMI of 33.6). I’m sure hundreds, if not thousands, have tried it since then.

I’m not endorsing or recommending the Newcastle diet at this time. I haven’t studied it in detail. It probably requires careful medical and dietitian supervision. Prof. Taylor says:

Our research subjects found the diet challenging to stick to. Motivated people were selected, and support from the team was given frequently. Support from the families of the research volunteers was very important in helping them comply with the diet. Hunger was not a particular problem after the first few days, but the complete change in social activities (not going to the pub, not joining in the family meals etc.) was a challenge over the eight weeks.

The purpose of this post is simply to collect a few informational links for my own records and for my readers who want to know more.

Links:

The original program utilizes Optifast liquid meals (600 calories/day) plus vegetables for another 200 calories. Prof. Taylor notes that products equivalent to Optifast may be more readily available and just as effective, but I don’t know what those are. Ensure? Carnation Instant Breakfast? Boost? Jevity?

Very low calorie diets like this are often referred to as starvation diets or crash diets. Starvation diets can cause weakness and easy fatigue, headaches, dizziness, hair loss, gallstones, electrolyte (blood mineral) disturbances, palpitations, nutritional deficiencies, skin problems, gout, kidney failure, or worse.

Even if successful, transitioning away from the eight-week Newcastle diet better be done carefully or the diabetes will return.

Steve Parker, M.D.

low-carb mediterranean diet

Front cover of book

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QOTD: Exercise versus Death

What fits your busy schedule better, exercising 30 minutes a day or being dead 24 hours a day?

—Randy Glasbergen in a 2008 cartoon

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What’s the Deal With Hypoglycemia Unawareness?

Some people with diabetes, particularly after having the condition for many years, lose the ability to detect hypoglycemia—low blood sugar—just by the way they feel. This “hypoglycemia unawareness” is obviously more dangerous than being able to detect and treat hypoglycemia early on. Blood sugar levels may continue to fall and reach a life-threatening degree. Hypoglycemia unawareness can be caused by impairment of the nervous system (autonomic neuropathy) or by beta blocker drugs prescribed for high blood pressure or heart disease. People with hypoglycemia unawareness need to check blood sugars more frequently, particularly if driving a car or operating dangerous machinery.

How Is Hypoglycemia Treated?

Folks who can indeed perceive signs or symptoms of hypoglycemia usually won’t notice them until their blood sugar is under 65 mg/dl (36 mmol/l).

If you have diabetes, your personal physician and other healthcare team members should teach you how to recognize and manage hypoglycemia. Immediate early stage treatment involves ingestion of glucose as the preferred treatment—15 to 20 grams. You can get glucose tablets or paste at your local pharmacy without a prescription. Other carbohydrates will also work: six fl oz (180 ml) sweetened fruit juice, 12 fl oz (360 ml) milk, four tsp (20 ml) table sugar mixed in water, four fl oz (120 ml) soda pop, candy, etc. Fifteen to 30 grams of glucose or other carbohydrate should do the trick. Hypoglycemic symptoms respond within 20 minutes.

If level of consciousness is diminished such that the person cannot safely swallow, he’ll need a glucagon injection. Non-medical people can be trained to give the injection under the skin or into a muscle. Ask your doctor if you’re at risk for severe hypoglycemia. If so, ask him for a prescription so you can get an emergency glucagon kit from a pharmacy.

Steve Parker, M.D.

low-carb mediterranean diet

Front cover of book

 

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