diabetes drug metformin
August 11, 2014

Metformin Can Help Extend Life Expectancy Of Type 2 Diabetics And Non-Diabetics

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A large-scale study from Cardiff University, involving over 180,000 people, reveals that people with Type 2 diabetes can live longer than those without the condition, thanks to a widely prescribed blood glucose control medication.

The findings, published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, suggest that metformin — commonly used to control glucose levels in the body and known for exhibiting anticancer properties — could offer prognostic and prophylactic benefits to people without diabetes.

The aim of the study was to compare the survival rates of diabetes patients using metformin with the survival of patients using sulphonylurea, another common diabetes drug. The life expectancy of both diabetic groups was compared against non-diabetics. The non-diabetic group was matched on criteria such as age, gender, same general practice, smoking status and clinical status.

"What we found was illuminating," said Professor Craig Currie from Cardiff University's School of Medicine.

"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. This was true even without any clever statistical manipulation."

"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. Metformin has been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-cardiovascular disease benefits. It can also reduce pre-diabetics' chances of developing the disease by a third."

"This does not mean that people with type 2 diabetes get off Scott free. Their disease will progress and they will be typically switched to more aggressive treatments. People lose on average around eight years from their life expectancy after developing diabetes. The best way to avoid the condition altogether is by keeping moderately lean and taking some regular light exercise."

Currie and his colleagues plan to continue their research by investigating what treatments can be used on patients using metformin as a first line therapy to extend their life expectancy closer to the national average. This is an important line of research as presently, eight percent of the US population and six percent of the UK population suffers from Type 2 diabetes.

Controlling blood glucose levels effectively is important to reduce the risk of microvascular complications such as stroke or coronary artery disease. Diet and exercise can put off these conditions initially, but most patients eventually require glucose lowering medication as the disease progresses.

The American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes guidelines, as well as the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), recommend metformin as a first line therapy.

Sulphonylureas, on the other hand, are prescribed if clinicians deem metformin unsuitable for treatment in a particular patient. These drugs can cause weight gain, hypoglycemia, and an impaired recovery after heart attacks, unlike metformin which is associated with healthful benefits like improved cardiac health and the ability to fight off the onset of certain cancers.