Diabetic Foot Ulcers Medication

Updated: Oct 15, 2020
  • Author: Tanzim Khan, DPM; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
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Medication Summary

Many medications may have a role in the treatment of diabetes, the complications of diabetes, and the etiologies of diabetic ulcer. For example, hemorrheologic agents and antiplatelet agents are sometimes used in the management of underlying atherosclerotic disease. The role of aspirin, however, remains unclear.


Hemorrheologic Agents

Class Summary

Hemorrheologic agents such as pentoxifylline (Trental) improve intermittent claudication in approximately 60% of patients after 3 months. Cilostazol (Pletal) is an alternative hemorrheologic agent for patients who cannot tolerate pentoxifylline. [76] Cilostazol is contraindicated in patients with congestive heart failure. However, there is no conclusive evidence of any direct beneficial effect of either pentoxifylline or cilostazol on the healing of diabetic foot ulcers.

Pentoxifylline (Trental)

Pentoxifylline is indicated to treat intermittent claudication. It may alter rheology of red blood cells, which in turn reduces blood viscosity. Two to eight weeks of therapy may be required before symptomatic improvement occurs, and only about 60% of patients respond to this drug.

Cilostazol (Pletal)

Cilostazol is indicated to reduce symptoms of intermittent claudication, as indicated by an increased walking distance. It affects vascular beds and cardiovascular function and produces nonhomogeneous dilation of vascular beds, with greater dilation in femoral beds than in vertebral, carotid, or superior mesenteric arteries. Renal arteries were not found to be responsive to its effects. The mechanism of cilostazol involves inhibition of PDE, especially PDE III, and reversible inhibition of platelet aggregation. Patients may respond as early as 2-4 weeks after initiation of therapy, but treatment for as many as 12 weeks may be needed before a beneficial effect is experienced.


Antiplatelet agents

Class Summary

Antiplatelet therapy with aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix) may be warranted in some cases for the prevention of the complications of atherosclerosis, although neither has a direct benefit in healing diabetic foot ulcers. Antiplatelet agents inhibit platelet function by blocking cyclooxygenase and subsequent platelet aggregation.

Clopidogrel (Plavix)

Clopidogrel selectively inhibits ADP binding to platelet receptor and subsequent ADP-mediated activation of glycoprotein GPIIb/IIIa complex, thereby inhibiting platelet aggregation. It is indicated as antiplatelet therapy in some patients with atherosclerotic disease.

Aspirin (Bayer, Anacin, Empirin)

Aspirin inhibits prostaglandin synthesis, preventing formation of platelet-aggregating thromboxane A2. It may be used in low dose to inhibit platelet aggregation and to improve complications of venous stases and thrombosis. The recommended dose varies with indication, and, often, the literature is unclear on the optimal dosing.


Wound Healing Agents

Class Summary

Topically applied platelet-derived growth factors (PDGF) such as becaplermin gel (Regranex) have a modestly beneficial effect in promoting wound healing.

Becaplermin (Regranex)

Becaplermin gel 0.01% (Regranex), a recombinant human PDGF that is produced through genetic engineering, is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promote healing of diabetic foot ulcers. [25] Regranex is meant for a healthy, granulating wound, not one with a necrotic wound base, and it is contraindicated with known skin cancers at the site of application.