One very common drug frequently used to treat Type II Diabetes is Metformin. Also known as Glucophage, the drug has been around for at least 80 years. It was once widely used until the 1990s. There were a few sporadic reports about its safety and doctors soon stopped prescribing it. Most reports of it adverse effects were only anecdotes. Plus, with the discovery of many newer diabetic drugs, the use of metformin declined. In the 1990s, the data from the Framingham study was reevaluated and researchers noted that in fact metformin was not only safe but it worked very well for lowering blood sugars. Soon several other trials followed and an unexpected benefit of metformin was seen- it also leads to weight loss. Unlike most diabetic drugs today, Metformin is the only one with this consistent benefit. Many trials have been conducted on metformin and shown that its weight reducing ability is consistent in obese diabetics. The amount of weight loss can vary from 1-2 pounds a month. The weight loss is not immediate but occurs after the first 6 weeks.
The drug can be taken once or twice a day and is relatively safe. Metformin can be combined with other antidiabetic drugs or insulin. All the reports about its adverse effects from the 80s and 90s have been proven wrong. The most common adverse effects of metformin include diarrhea, stomach upset and nausea. Its most serious side effect lactic acidosis is extremely rare and rarely occurs in the presence of normal liver and kidney function. Further, unlike most antidiabetic drugs, metformin is least likely to cause blood sugars (hypoglycemia) to drop significantly. If metformin is taken on a regular basis, it has also been shown to lower both LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Metformin acts by decreasing glucose production by the liver and can lower blood sugars very effectively. Since the patent on metformin expired many years ago, there are many generics available and all work effectively. There are also extended release formulas of metformin available. For people who have difficulty swallowing tablets, there are also several liquid formulas available. Metformin is the drug of choice for all Type II diabetics. Not only is it one the cheapest diabetic drugs on the market, it is also one of the most effective medications. Many drug companies have now combined metformin with other newer antidiabetic drugs for better control of blood sugars.
For people who take metformin, it is important to note that the drug must be discontinued for a day prior to any imaging study that uses contrast dye. It is believed that metformin and the dye may react to damage the kidney. The drug can be started within 48 hours after the imaging test has been done. All diabetics should understand that metformin does not cure Type 2 diabetes. To ensure further lowering of blood sugars, it is highly recommended that one discontinues smoking, adjusts their diet and maintains regular exercise.