Drug administration in patients with diabetes mellitus

Richard E. Gilbert, Mark E. Cooper, Henry Krum

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Diabetes mellitus is associated with alterations in a number of key metabolic pathways. Despite theoretical concerns, clinically significant alterations in the pharmacokinetic properties of commonly prescribed drugs are relatively uncommon. Indeed, dose adjustment is rarely required in the setting of well controlled diabetes mellitus. However, significant alterations in drug handling may occur in the context of poor metabolic control or in the presence of complications such as nephropathy. Metformin use may be complicated by lactic acidosis. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence providing that the agent is not used in circumstances in which it is contraindicated. Indeed, the risk of death from metformin-related lactic acidosis is similar in magnitude to the risk of death related to hypoglycaemia in sulphonylurea-treated patients. The novel hypoglycaemic agent troglitazone may be associated with abnormalities in liver function in approximately 2% of patients. Discontinuation of treatment is followed by normalisation of liver enzyme levels. Current prescribing information recommends frequent monitoring of liver function tests and immediate cessation of therapy if abnormalities develop. In addition to disturbances in intermediary metabolism, diabetes mellitus may also lead to chronic microvascular and marcovascular complications. Thus, in addition to the use of drugs for the control of blood glucose, patients with diabetes mellitus are likely to be prescribed medication for associated conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Such medication includes the ACE inhibitors which are contraindicated in patients with bilateral renal artery stenosis. This complication may be theoretically more common in patients with diabetes mellitus because of accelerated atherosclerosis. However, in clinical practice this is an uncommon occurrence in the absence of clinical features that should alert the treating clinician that an individual patient might be at high risk. Although caution should also be used with β-blocker therapy in patients with diabetes mellitus, current evidence suggests that, like ACE inhibitors, these drugs may be particularly useful in this patient group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-455
Number of pages15
JournalDrug Safety
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 1998

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