Paradox of glycemic management: Multimorbidity, glycemic control, and high-risk medication use among adults with diabetes

Rozalina G. McCoy, Kasia J. Lipska, Holly K. Van Houten, Nilay D. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introduction Glycemic targets and glucose-lowering regimens should be individualized based on multiple factors, including the presence of comorbidities. We examined contemporary patterns of glycemic control and use of medications known to cause hypoglycemia among adults with diabetes across age and multimorbidity. Research design and methods We retrospectively examined glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA 1c) levels and rates of insulin/sulfonylurea use as a function of age and multimorbidity using administrative claims and laboratory data for adults with type 2 diabetes included in OptumLabs Data Warehouse, 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2016. Comorbidity burden was assessed by counts of any of 16 comorbidities specified by guidelines as warranting relaxation of HbA 1c targets, classified as being diabetes concordant (diabetes complications or risk factors), discordant (unrelated to diabetes), or advanced (life limiting). Results Among 194 157 patients with type 2 diabetes included in the study, 45.2% had only concordant comorbidities, 30.6% concordant and discordant, 2.7% only discordant, and 13.0% had ≥1 advanced comorbidity. Mean HbA 1c was 7.7% among 18-44 year-olds versus 6.9% among ≥75 year-olds, and was higher among patients with comorbidities: 7.3% with concordant only, 7.1% with discordant only, 7.1% with concordant and discordant, and 7.0% with advanced comorbidities compared with 7.4% among patients without comorbidities. The odds of insulin use decreased with age (OR 0.51 (95% CI 0.48 to 0.54) for age ≥75 vs 18-44 years) but increased with accumulation of concordant (OR 5.50 (95% CI 5.22 to 5.79) for ≥3 vs none), discordant (OR 1.72 (95% CI 1.60 to 1.86) for ≥3 vs none), and advanced (OR 1.45 (95% CI 1.25 to 1.68) for ≥2 vs none) comorbidities. Conversely, sulfonylurea use increased with age (OR 1.36 (95% CI 1.29 to 1.44) for age ≥75 vs 18-44 years) but decreased with accumulation of concordant (OR 0.76 (95% CI 0.73 to 0.79) for ≥3 vs none), discordant (OR 0.70 (95% CI 0.64 to 0.76) for ≥3 vs none), but not advanced (OR 0.86 (95% CI 0.74 to 1.01) for ≥2 vs none) comorbidities. Conclusions The proportion of patients achieving low HbA 1c levels was highest among older and multimorbid patients. Older patients and patients with higher comorbidity burden were more likely to be treated with insulin to achieve these HbA 1c levels despite potential for hypoglycemia and uncertain long-term benefit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere001007
JournalBMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 19 2020


  • diabetes
  • evidence-based medicine
  • insulin
  • intensive control
  • intensive treatment
  • multimorbidity
  • overtreatment
  • patient-centered care
  • risk treatment paradox
  • sulfonylurea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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