Role of vildagliptin in managing type 2 diabetes mellitus in the elderly

S Halimi, D Raccah, A Schweizer, S Dejager
Current Medical Research and Opinion 2010, 26 (7): 1647-56

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2DM) increases with age. Older patients have an increased likelihood for T2DM-related morbidity and mortality. The objective of this review is to provide an overview of the challenges in managing T2DM in the elderly, with an emphasis on prevention of hypoglycaemia and the role of the DPP-4 inhibitor vildagliptin in this patient population.

METHODS: A search of PubMed was conducted (from 2003 to 2010) to identify English-language articles relevant to the management of elderly patients with T2DM, with an emphasis on vildagliptin treatment. A limitation of this review is that it does not provide an overview of the entire class of dipeptidyl-peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors.

FINDINGS: Management of T2DM in elderly patients is complicated by numerous factors, including a high prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and other comorbidities and a high frequency of polypharmacy issues. Hypoglycaemia may pose the greatest barrier to optimal glycaemic control in elderly patients, who are less likely to recognise and respond to hypoglycaemic episodes, leading to increased frequency and severity of events. Data on the DPP-4 inhibitor vildagliptin indicate that reductions in A1C in elderly patients are at least as good as those observed in younger patients and are achieved with minimal risk of hypoglycaemia. T2DM in older individuals is associated with relative hyperglucagonaemia and elevated postprandial glucose (PPG). Vildagliptin treatment appears to address both these defects. Vildagliptin improves the ability of alpha- and beta-cells to respond appropriately to changes in plasma glucose levels. This, in the face of high glucose levels, results in reduced inappropriate glucagon secretion and PPG excursions. In the face of low glucose, however, the protective glucagon response is well-preserved. These factors help explain the efficacy and minimal risk of hypoglycaemia observed with vildagliptin in elderly patients.

CONCLUSION: The elderly population with T2DM poses unique treatment challenges and have not been particularly well-represented in clinical trials, highlighting the need for additional studies to better define appropriate glucose targets and to ascertain the best strategies for achieving and maintaining appropriate glycaemic levels. Because vildagliptin does not expose patients to hypoglycaemic risk, it seems particularly suited to oral therapy of T2DM in the elderly.

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