Background Improved blood-glucose control decreases the progression of diabetic microvascular disease, but the effect on macrovascular complications is unknown. There is concern that sulphonylureas may increase cardiovascular mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes and that high insulin concentrations may enhance atheroma formation. We compared the effects of intensive blood-glucose control with either sulphonylurea or insulin and conventional treatment on the risk of microvascular and macrovascular complications in patients with type 2 diabetes in a randomised controlled trial. Methods 3867 newly diagnosed patients with type 2 diabetes, median age 54 years (IQR 48-60 years), who after 3 months' diet treatment had a mean of two fasting plasma glucose (FPG) concentrations of 6.1-15.0 mmol/L were randomly assigned intensive policy with a sulphonylurea (chlorpropamide, glibenclamide, or. glipizide) or with insulin, or conventional policy with diet. The aim in the intensive group was FPG less than 6 mmol/L. in the conventional group, the aim was the best achievable FPG with diet atone; drugs were added only if there were hyperglycaemic symptoms or FPG greater than 15 mmol/L. Three aggregate endpoints were used to assess differences between conventional and intensive treatment: any diabetes-related endpoint (sudden death, death from hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia, fatal or non-fatal myocardial infarction, angina, heart failure, stroke, renal failure, amputation [of at least one digit], vitreous haemorrhage, retinopathy requiring photocoagulation, blindness in one eye,or cataract extraction); diabetes-related death (death from myocardial infarction, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, renal disease, hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia, and sudden death); all-cause mortality. Single clinical endpoints and surrogate subclinical endpoints were also assessed. All analyses were by intention to treat and frequency of hypoglycaemia was also analysed by actual therapy. Findings Over 10 years, haemoglobin A(1c) (HbA(1c)) was 7.0% (6.2-8.2) in the intensive group compared with 7.9% (6.9-8.8) in the conventional group-an 11% reduction. There was no difference in HbA(1c) among agents in the intensive group. Compared with the conventional group, the risk in the intensive group was 12% lower (95% CI 1-21, p=0.029) for any diabetes-related endpoint; 10% lower (-11 to 27, p=0.34) for any diabetes-related death; and 6% lower (-10 to 20, p=0.44) for all-cause mortality. Most of the risk reduction in the any diabetes-related aggregate endpoint was due to a 25% risk reduction (7-40, p=0.0099) in microvascular endpoints, including the need for retinal photocoagulation. There was no difference for any of the three aggregate endpoints the three intensive agents (chlorpropamide, glibenclamide, or insulin). Patients in the intensive group had more hypoglycaemic episodes than those in the conventional group on both types of analysis (both p<0.0001). The rates of major hypoglycaemic episodes per year were 0.7% with conventional treatment, 1.0% with chlorpropamide, 1.4% with glibenclamide, and 1.8% with insulin. Weight gain was significantly higher in the intensive group (mean 2.9 kg) than in the conventional group (p<0.001), and patients assigned insulin had a greater gain in weight (4.0 kg) than those assigned chlorpropamide (2.6 kg) or glibenclamide (1.7 kg). Interpretation Intensive blood-glucose control by either sulphonylureas or insulin substantially decreases the risk of microvascular complications, but not macrovascular disease, in patients with type 2 diabetes. None of the individual drugs had an adverse effect on cardiovascular outcomes. All intensive treatment increased the risk of hypoglycaemia.