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Diabetes patients may be taking more glucose-lowering medication than needed

More than 20 percent of adults with diabetes in the US may be taking more medication than necessary, which has led to thousands of emergency room visits, according to a new study. 

Diabetes is on the rise, and as of 2017, the Centers for Disease Control reported that more than 100 million adults were living with diabetes or prediabetes. 

Glucose lowering therapies are essential for diabetes, but researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that overtreatment is a much more common problem than previously thought. 

In a new study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers calculated the number of American adults that are overtreated and used this info to determine how many potentially preventable emergency room visits occur due to overtreatment. 

The researchers found that overtreatment was linked to 4,774 hospitalizations and 4,804 emergency room visits over two years. 

“It is important not only to ensure that we do not undertreat our patients with diabetes, but also that we do not overtreat them because both undertreatment and overtreatment can harm our patients,” Rozalina McCoy, M.D., the leader of the study. 

McCoy and her team reviewed and analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the OptumLabs Data Warehouse

From the survey, the researchers were able to identify 10.7 million adults with diabetes who had hemoglobin AIC levels within the recommended range, but out of these individuals, 22 percent were overtreated. 

After identifying patients who were overtreated, the researchers used the OptumLabs data to estimate the number of hospitalizations and emergency room visits directly due to intensive glucose-lowering therapy.

Between 2011 and 2014, 2.3 million Americans with diabetes were overtreated. 

The study results are alarming as they show that diabetes treatments have focused on eliminating undertreatment but overlooked the consequences of overtreatment. 

“When we develop a diabetes treatment plan, our goal should be to maximize benefit while reducing harm and burden of treatment,” said Dr. McCoy. “We need to align treatment regimens and goals with each patient’s clinical situation, health status, psychosocial situation, and reality of everyday life to ensure that care is consistent with their goals, preferences and values,” she says.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer 

Image Credit: Shutterstock/

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