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Diabetes Care for Patients Experiencing Homelessness: Beyond Metformin and Sulfonylureas

homeless man on a bench wearing an army jacket

On any given night in the United States, an estimated 553,742 people are homeless. Applying a broader definition of homelessness that includes unstably housed people, an estimated 1.5% of Americans experience homelessness in a given year. Rates of diabetes are increasing among individuals experiencing homelessness. The social, psychological, and physical challenges of homelessness not only contribute to the rate of diabetes, but also complicate management. Unstable housing, limited medical resources, food insecurity, and competing priorities are barriers to diabetes care among patients experiencing homelessness. Homeless patients with diabetes more frequently develop specific comorbidities that require special attention, such as cardiovascular disease, substance abuse, depression, and foot wounds. The Affordable Care Act gave states the option to expand Medicaid to those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. This addressed a gap in coverage for low-income individuals not eligible for Medicaid or employer-sponsored insurance. With increased insurance coverage, this has increased the variety of medications available to treat hyperglycemia from type 2 diabetes beyond metformin, sulfonylureas, and insulin. Several of the newer classes of medications have advantages for patients experiencing homelessness, but also have special considerations in this vulnerable patient population. This narrative review will provide a review of dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors, glucagon-like peptide agonists, sodium glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitors, and thiazolidinediones in individuals experiencing homelessness.

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-Lauren K. Brooks, MDa, Nilesh Kalyanaraman, MDb, Rana Malek, MDa

-This article originally appeared in the April issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

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