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Some Diabetes Medications May Increase Risk for Heart Failure, Study Finds

A comprehensive study examining clinical trials of more than 95,000 patients has found that some glucose- or sugar-lowering medications prescribed to patients with diabetes may pose an increased risk for the development of heart failure in these patients.

“Patients randomized to new or more-intensive blood sugar-lowering drugs or strategies to manage diabetes showed an overall 14 percent increased risk for heart failure,” said Jacob Udell, MD, the study’s principal investigator and cardiologist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, University Health Network (UHN), and Women’s College Hospital (WCH). “This increased risk was directly associated with the type of diabetes therapy that was chosen, with some drugs more likely to cause heart failure than others, compared with placebo or standard care,” he said.

The results of the study were published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

“While some drugs showed an increased risk, other strategies tested, such as intensive weight loss to control blood sugar, showed a trend towards a lower risk for heart failure,” said Michael Farkouh, MD, senior author of the study and chair, Peter Munk Centre of Excellence in Multinational Clinical Trials, where the study was conducted.

Overall, the study found that for every one kilogram of weight gain attributed to a sugar-lowering diabetes medication or strategy, there was an associated 7 percent increased risk of heart failure directly linked to that medication or strategy.

“The results of this study could prove to be the catalyst for how diabetes patients at risk for heart disease are managed moving forward,” said Barry Rubin, MD, medical director, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, UHN. “As the number one global killer…the growing burden of heart disease is in many respects impacting patients, families, and the healthcare system in ways that are unsustainable. Whatever proactive steps we can take to lessen the risk for development of the disease as illuminated in studies like this one, will yield far-reaching benefits in the future,” he said.

While Udell says he is not advising patients to stop their medications on their own, he encourages them to talk to their healthcare providers about any potential risks for heart failure associated with them.

For more information, visit to watch a video interview with Udell.

This article was adapted from information provided by UHN. It is for informational and educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for personal medical advice. For specific advice about your treatment, consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.