Initiating therapy in patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: Combination therapy vs a stepwise approach

Eugenio Cersosimo, Eric L. Johnson, Christina Chovanes, Neil Skolnik

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


There is clear evidence that achieving glycaemic targets reduces the risk of developing complications as a result of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Many patients, however, continue to have suboptimal glycaemic control because of issues that include unclear advice on how to achieve these targets as well as clinical inertia. The two management approaches recommended for patients newly diagnosed with T2D are stepwise and combination therapy, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. Stepwise therapy may result in good patient adherence and allow greater individualization of therapy, and minimization of side effects and cost, and so may be appropriate for patients who are closer to goal. Stepwise therapy, however, may also lead to frequent delays in achieving glycaemic goals and longer exposure to hyperglycaemia. Combination therapy, which is now emerging as an important therapy option, has a number of potential advantages over stepwise therapy, including reduction in clinical inertia and earlier and more frequent achievement of glycated haemoglobin goals by targeting multiple pathogenic mechanisms simultaneously, which may more effectively delay disease progression. Compared with stepwise therapy, the disadvantages of combination therapy include reduced patient adherence resulting from complex, multi-drug regimens, difficulty determining the cause of poor efficacy and/or side effects, patient refusal to accept disease, and higher cost. Fixed-dose and fixed-ratio combinations are novel therapeutic approaches which may help address several issues of treatment complexity and patient burden associated with combination therapy comprising individual drugs. The choice of which drugs to administer and the decision to use stepwise vs combination therapy, however, should always be made on an individualized basis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-507
Number of pages11
JournalDiabetes, Obesity and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • combination therapy
  • glycaemic control
  • newly diagnosed
  • stepwise therapy
  • type 2 diabetes
  • β-cell function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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