Nineteen maturity-onset diabetic patients receiving oral hypoglycemic therapy in a university diabetes dinic completed a study to assess the efficacy of the oral agents and to determine their effects on pancreatic islet hormone secretion. All patients were receiving sulfonylureas, and seven were also receiving phenformin. Hie subjects were studied as outpatients in the clinic setting on four different occasions with collections of a baseline blood sample before a standard breakfast and a second sampling two hours postprandially, twice while on their prescribed medication and twice after having been withdrawn from the medication. The values obtained during the two studies on and the two studies off medications were reproducible for each subject. Analysis of the results by paired differences revealed that mean 24-hour urine glucose values deteriorated significantly (p < 0.005) after oral antidiabetic therapy was withdrawn; similarly, mean plasma glucose values, both at baseline and two hours postprandially, rose significantly (p < 0.001) when subjects were off medication. Baseline serum insulin values were not changed, but postprandial levels were significantly higher on oral agents (p <0.005). Plasma immunoreactive glucagon was significantly lower both at baseline (p < 0.02) and postprandially (p < 0.005) when the subjects were on their antidiabetic medications. During the trial off medication, 16 patients became symptomatic, with three of these developing symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization.
It is apparent from this study that oral hypoglycemic medications can play a role in controlling symptoms in maturity-onset diabetic patients and that the beneficial effect of these agents on hyperglycemia may, in part, be explained by their stimulation of endogenous insulin secretion and partial suppression of endogenous glucagon.