Tolbutamide is well absorbed but rapidly metabolized in theliver. Its duration of effect is relatively short, with an elimination half-life of 4–5 hours, and it is best administered in divided doses. Because of its short half-life, it is the safest sulfonylurea for elderly diabetics. Prolonged hypoglycemia has been reported rarely, mostly in patients receiving certain drugs (eg, dicumarol, phenylbutazone, some sulfonamides) that inhibit the metabolism of tolbutamide.
Chlorpropamide has a half-life of 32 hours and is slowlymetabolized in the liver to products that retain some biologic activity; approximately 20–30% is excreted unchanged in the urine. Chlorpropamide also interacts with the drugs mentioned above that depend on hepatic oxidative catabolism, and it is contraindicated in patients with hepatic or renal insufficiency. Dosages higher than 500 mg daily increase the risk of jaundice. The average maintenance dosage is 250 mg daily, given as a single dose in the morning. Prolonged hypoglycemic reactions are more common in elderly patients, and the drug is contraindicated in this group. Other adverse effects include a hyperemic flush after alcohol ingestion in genetically predisposed patients and dilu-tional hyponatremia. Hematologic toxicity (transient leukopenia, thrombocytopenia) occurs in less than 1% of patients.
Tolazamide is comparable to chlorpropamide in potencybut has a shorter duration of action. Tolazamide is more slowly absorbed than the other sulfonylureas, and its effect on blood glucose does not appear for several hours. Its half-life is about 7 hours. Tolazamide is metabolized to several compounds that retain hypoglycemic effects. If more than 500 mg/d are required, the dose should be divided and given twice daily.