Although controversies remain as to the usefulness of sulfonylureas, most evidence is in favor of their use in many if not most patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. When used properly, sulfonylureas improve insulin secretion and action, and these effects may be maintained for years. If combined with hypocaloric dietary regulation, rapid- and short-acting sulfonylureas may help patients reach and maintain euglycemia without provoking chronic hyperinsulinemia or weight increase. There is no evidence that sulfonylurea treatment causes β-cell exhaustion; instead, the antihyperglycemic effect helps improve β-cell function. Sulfonylurea “failures” are often dietary failures or may be due to late introduction of these drugs, i.e., when β-cell function is already attenuated. Desensitization of the insulinotropic effect of sulfonylureas may occur but might be avoided by discontinuous (<24 h/day) sulfonylurea exposure, i.e., once-daily administration of a short-acting sulfonylurea in a moderate dose. The most important adverse effect of sulfonylureas is long-lasting hypoglycemia, which may lead to permanent neurological damage and even death. This is mainly seen in elderly subjects who are exposed to some intercurrent event, e.g., acute energy deprivation or a drug interaction, i.e., aspirin. Longacting sulfonylureas may be more likely to promote long-lasting hypoglycemia. The dose-response relationships of sulfonylureas have been poorly investigated, and sulfonylurea therapy should always be initiated and maintained at the lowest possible dose.

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