Metformin has beneficial effects beyond diabetes management

Metformin is widely used as the antidiabetic drug of choice for people with type 2 diabetes, but it also may have benefits in protecting against cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, and dementia.


Oluwaranti Akiyode, PharmD, RPh, BCPS, CDE

Oluwaranti Akiyode, PharmD, RPh, BCPS, CDE, will examine the drug’s benefits during “Metformin: Beyond Diabetes Management,” from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm today in W206. Dr. Akiyode, a clinical pharmacist at Howard University Hospital’s Diabetes Treatment Center in Washington, D.C, and associate professor at the Howard University College of Pharmacy, will review scientific evidence from research demonstrating these beneficial effects.

“Metformin has pleiotropic benefits beyond diabetes management. It is the No. 1 prescribed oral drug for diabetes worldwide, and it has many other benefits,” she said. “Evidence-based research supports that it can reduce cardiovascular mortality. It may also increase survival in cancer patients and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke in patients who have diabetes.”

The landmark United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study showed that intensive blood glucose control resulted in fewer diabetes-related complications, including all-cause mortality and stroke.

“Metformin outperformed the other antidiabetic medications used in this study in its ability to elicit cardiovascular benefits,” Dr. Akiyode said.

A 2013 systematic review of studies of metformin therapy and the risk of cancer in patients with type 2 diabetes suggested that metformin might be associated with a significant reduction in cancer-related mortality.

“The review showed that for patients with type 2 diabetes, metformin has a potential survival benefit in patients with type 2 diabetes and with cancer,” she said.

A 2014 study published by the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases indicated that metformin had a neuroprotective effect in patients with diabetes at risk of stroke.

“Patients with diabetes on metformin therapy had a 9.2 percent incidence of stroke in this study, while patients with diabetes not on metformin therapy had a stroke incidence of 17.5 percent,” Dr. Akiyode noted.

Finally, an oral report presented at the 2013 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference comparing metformin with other antidiabetic medications, including sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones and insulin, suggested that patients with diabetes who were treated with metformin had a significantly lower risk of dementia.

“Because metformin is the No. 1 choice for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, it’s important for diabetes educators to maximize its effectiveness. Many people with diabetes can benefit from its nondiabetic effects,” Dr. Akiyode said. “Of course, appropriate measure should be taken to reduce and/or eliminate the barriers to metformin use.”

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