Oral hypoglycemic (OH) agents have been available in the United States for the treatment of non-insulindependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) for almost 30 yr. During this time they have been subject to considerable controversy. In this article, we present pharmaceutical marketing research data that provide a review of several facets of OH use. The number of OH prescriptions dispensed peaked in 1973, decreased through 1980, and has been increasing since that year. In 1986, OH agents accounted for 21.5 million prescriptions: 1% of all prescriptions dispensed that year. Chlorpropamide is currently the most frequently ingested OH agent; it is used by 33% of the market. The two OH agents introduced in 1984, glyburide and glipizide, had acquired 41% of the OH market by the end of 1986. The rate of OH use per 1000 diabetes mellitus visits increases with patient's age. Patients aged 60 yr and older received OH prescriptions at a rate of 478 per 1000 diabetes mellitus visits in 1986. Data estimating both the number of patients diagnosed with diabetes and the number of diabetic patients taking OH agents indicate that the percentage receiving OH treatment has increased over the past 5 yr, with ∼35% of all diabetic patients taking OH agents in 1986.

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