Today I’m going to talk about another diabetes medication in the same class as glyburide. I’d like to introduce you to glipizide, also known by the brand name Glucotrol. This is a ‘younger’ student in the class (and when I say younger, that is only relative to the ‘older’ drug glyburide - glyburide was developed in 1966 and glipizide in 1984). If the names are starting to get confusing, that’s not a surprise – all of the most common sulfonylureas used today for diabetes start with the letters “gl”.
If you want a refresher on sulfonylureas, and the other classes of diabetes medications, you can find out more in my previous post here.
How does it lower blood sugar: Like the other sulfonylureas, glipizide lowers your blood sugar by increasing the amount of insulin that your pancreas puts into your blood. Insulin is put into the blood so that it can “push” sugar into your cells and out of your bloodstream. To a small extent, glipizide may make your cells more sensitive to insulin, but mostly glipizide just increases the amount of available insulin. As I discussed last week, since the pancreas sometimes stops producing insulin as the disease gets worse, glipizide might not always work for you.
The effect on your numbers: Glipizide may lower your A1c by 1-2% (so if your starting A1c was 11, it might go down to 10 or 9 after being on glipizide). Glipizide may cause weight gain.
Dosing: We generally start patients at a dose of 5 mg once daily and then after some time this can be increased, up to a maximum of 40 mg daily. Glipizide also comes in an extended release tablet, which means that the medication will release into your body more slowly. The extended release glipizide cannot be cut, chewed, or crushed.
Just as I mentioned with glyburide, glipizide must be taken with food. If you take glipizide on an empty stomach, your blood sugar will drop and could get dangerously low. If you want to read more about low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) including what it feels like and how to treat it, please visit this link.
Side effects: The major side effects of glipizide are low blood sugar and weight gain. Aside from these, you may have some nausea and diarrhea, which can be avoided by using a lower dosage of glipizide. Some patients may get a rash, itching, and sun sensitivity (sunburning easily) from glipizide. Glipizide does not stay in the body quite as long as glyburide does, so if you had side effects with glyburide, you might not have the same side effects with glipizide.
Who should not take glipizide: If you have a sulfa allergy, you should not take glipizide. If your diet is inconsistent or you have a history of low blood sugar problems, you should probably not take glipizide because of the chance of hypoglycemia. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use glipizide. Those with severe liver or kidney failure should also not take glipizide.
Drug interactions: Glipizide will make your body not tolerate alcohol very well, so do not drink alcohol while on glipizide. Side effects of drinking alcohol while on glipizide include nausea, flushing of the skin, vomiting, shortness of breath, and very low blood pressure. But the most important thing that happens is that it can increase the effect of low blood sugar, which can be very dangerous.
Other medications that can interact with glipizide and make it work better or worse are certain blood pressure medications, diuretics (“water pills”), blood thinners, salicylates (like aspirin), and certain antidepressants. Remember, check with your local pharmacist or doctor before starting any new medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. And make sure your pharmacy is aware of all medications that you take so that your pharmacist can check for drug interactions when you come in with a prescription.
Monitoring: You will have to monitor your blood sugars throughout the day. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (feeling like your heart is racing, headache, confusion, increased sweating, hunger, shakiness, tingling in the mouth, and a feeling of anxiety). If you start to feel any of these, check your blood sugar immediately. If it is too low, have a 15 gram carb snack followed soon by a meal of complex carbohydrates.
Place in therapy for diabetes: Glipizide is usually given to a patient when metformin doesn’t work fast enough, or if they can’t take metformin. Glyburide and glipizide are both about the same price and work the same way, so it is up to your doctor as far as which one you should try first. After some time, your pancreas might stop making insulin, so your doctor will need to choose another medication.
If you want to read more about glipizide, you can learn about it here.
Next week I will discuss the last of the commonly used medications in the class of sulfonylureas. You won’t want to miss it!
As a disclaimer, I am your “virtual” pharmacist, here to provide you with information and answers to questions. However, I am not your local pharmacist and could, in no way, be aware of your specific medical needs. Remember to always check with your medical provider and pharmacist before stopping or starting any new medications. My posts are based on general pharmacy principles and should not considered as your “first opinion” when it comes to your health. Please consult with your doctor and pharmacist about anything regarding your health.