A recent study found that glyburide, a drug used to treat gestational diabetes, is associated with a number of serious birth complications. The drug, which has increased in use over the last decade, was associated with hypoglycemia, high birth weight, respiratory distress and birth injuries. In addition to being more likely to have complications, babies born to mothers taking glyburide were more likely to go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
The study evaluated the health records of 110,000 women with gestational diabetes. The women did not have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and were not pregnant with multiples. Compared to babies born to mothers on insulin, babies born to mothers on glyburide had a higher risk of complications. The study did not establish a cause and effect relationship, but the increased risks associated with the drug may be related to insufficient blood glucose control compared to treatment with insulin.
Over the past decade, glyburide has become widely used as a gestational diabetes treatment. Over the 11-year course of the study period, the percentage of women with gestational diabetes being treated with glyburide increased from 8.5 percent to 64 percent.
Gestational diabetes is one of the most common complications of pregnancy, and develops as a result of increased insulin demands the body develops during pregnancy. Excessive weight gain and heredity play a major role in a woman’s likelihood of developing the condition. Without adequate treatment, gestational diabetes can cause high birth weight, newborn respiratory distress and hypoglycemia in newborns; in addition, children born to mothers with poorly controlled gestational diabetes are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life. Medication, such as insulin or glyburide, must be used to keep blood sugar levels under control.
While initial studies suggested that glyburide was safe for use in the treatment of gestational diabetes, this and other large studies suggest that further research is needed to determine whether or not the drug is truly safe. Although the findings in the study were not enough to abandon the use of glyburide for pregnant women, they do point to a need for further research and possible practice changes.
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