Study suggests metformin prophylactic benefits


Sales of the popular Type 2 diabetes drug metformin may get a boost if physicians begin prescribing the medicine as a prophylactic in people who don’t have diabetes. A recent study published in the diabetes journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism and conducted by scientists from Cardiff University found that patients treated with metformin could live longer than people without diabetes.

(For the full Diabetes Report, including charts and additional coverage, click here.)

The study involved more than 180,000 people and compared the survival of diabetes patients prescribed with metformin with patients prescribed with the diabetes drug sulphonylurea.

“What we found was illuminating,” said lead author Craig Currie. “Patients treated with metformin had a small but statistically significant improvement in survival compared with the cohort of non-diabetics, whereas those treated with sulphonylureas had a consistently reduced survival compared with non-diabetic patients. Surprisingly, the findings indicate that this cheap and widely prescribed diabetic drug may have beneficial effects not only on patients with diabetes, but also for people without, and interestingly, people with Type 1 diabetes.”

According to Currie, metformin has been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-cardiovascular disease benefits. It also can reduce prediabetics’ chances of developing the disease by one-third.

Metformin is recommended as first-line therapy for Type 2 diabetes in the current American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the study of diabetes guidelines. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence also recommend the drug.

Sulphonylureas are commonly prescribed if metformin is deemed by practitioners to be an unsuitable course of treatment. Unlike metformin, sulphonylureas can cause weight gain, hypoglycaemia and an impaired recovery after heart attacks.

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