Monday, March 4, 2024

The Metformin Myth

Myth: Metformin is a diabetes drug that cannot be used for any other indication.

Truth: This is false.

Metformin, although commonly prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels, can also be prescribed to help treat other diseases. Metformin works to control blood sugar levels by improving the way the body responds to insulin. Normally, insulin, a hormone which is produced in the beta cells of the pancreas, is released in response to sugar in the bloodstream. The insulin is then able to stimulate cells to increase the uptake of sugar from the bloodstream. In type 2 diabetes, the body is still able to produce insulin, but cells do not respond as effectively; this results in an increase of sugar in the bloodstream. Metformin has a number of effects, including the ability to increase cell sensitivity to insulin, decrease the liver’s production of sugar, and decreases sugar absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.

Although Metformin is commonly prescribed for type 2 diabetes, this is not the only disease it can be used for. Metformin has also been prescribed for polycystic ovarian syndrome and some research shows it is effective for female infertility and certain types of cancer. Recently, a review published in the Journal of Endocrinology reported that metformin was also effective against thyroid diseases. In this review, researchers discovered that diabetes patients who were on metformin were more likely to have decreased thyroid volumes, were less likely to develop goitres and were less likely to develop thyroid nodules or cancer. In diabetic patients with thyroid cancer, metformin use was associated with higher rates of cancer remission and survival.

Read more about the role of Metformin in treating thyroid diseases here.

Reference

  1. Wong J, Motulsky A, Abrahamowicz M, Eguale T, Buckeridge DL, Tamblyn R. Off-label indications for antidepressants in primary care: Descriptive study of prescriptions from an indication based electronic prescribing system. BMJ. Published online 2017. doi:10.1136/bmj.j603
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