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Summary

Background:  Insulin is the most effective drug available to achieve glycaemic goals in patients with type 2 diabetes. Yet, there is reluctance among physicians, specifically primary care physicians (PCPs) in the USA, to initiate insulin therapy in these patients.

Aims:  To describe PCPs’ attitudes about the initiation of insulin in patients with type 2 diabetes and identify areas in which there is a clear lack of consensus.

Methods:  Primary care physicians practicing in the USA, seeing 10 or more patients with type 2 diabetes per week, and having > 3 years of clinical practice were surveyed via an internet site. The survey was developed through literature review, qualitative study and expert panel.

Results:  Primary care physicians (n = 505, mean age = 46 years, 81% male, 62% with > 10 years practice; 52% internal medicine) showed greatest consensus on attitudes regarding risk/benefits of insulin therapy, positive experiences of patients on insulin and patient fears or concerns about initiating insulin. Clear lack of consensus was seen in attitudes about the metabolic effects of insulin, need for insulin therapy, adequacy of self-monitoring blood glucose, time needed for training and potential for hypoglycaemia in elderly patients.

Conclusions:  The beliefs of some PCPs are inconsistent with their diabetes treatment goals (HbA1c ≤ 7%). Continuing medical education programmes that focus on increasing primary care physician knowledge about the progression of diabetes, the physiological effects of insulin, and tools for successfully initiating insulin in patients with type 2 diabetes are needed.