french lilac flowers

Doctors have been prescribing drugs to people with type 2 diabetes for decades. The goal has been to lower blood sugar levels and prevent the complications of diabetes. Many of those meds helped control blood glucose, but surprisingly few were shown to prevent heart attacks and delay death. A new Study shows one of the oldest and least expensive drugs is a winner: metformin saves lives (Diabetes Care, June, 2017).

Heart Disease and Diabetes:

Heart disease is the major cause of death among people with diabetes. The question naturally arises whether controlling blood sugar helps reduce the risk. Most health professionals assumed that if you successfully controlled blood glucose premature death could be prevented. They were forced to rethink that assumption nearly 50 years ago.

The UGDP Boondoggle:

In 1970, a long-term study carried out on more than 800 diabetes patients at twelve university medical centers shook the medical profession to its foundation. Two of the most common drugs to treat type 2 diabetes were tested.

One was tolbutamide (Orinase) and the other was phenformin (DBI or Meltrol). During the study, which lasted from three to eight years, it was determined that the patients receiving these two drugs seemed to be more prone to heart attacks and related heart problems than those patients who were being treated by diet alone or by insulin.

In fact, because this study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, discovered that the patients on tolbutamide were twice as prone to develop heart trouble as the non drug controls, the investigation had to be terminated before completion.

Not surprisingly, the findings of this trial were highly controversial. Many health professionals were outraged that the study was stopped. They called for intense scrutiny of the data. An analysis published in JAMA (Feb. 10, 1975) reaffirmed the original results and went further. The highly regard investigators concluded if drug companies developed new oral diabetes drugs they needed to “conduct scientifically adequate studies to justify the continued use of such agents.”

More than 40 years later we have little evidence that modern diabetes medicines produce desirable outcomes. Yes, they lower blood sugar. But do they reduce the likelihood that patients with type 2 diabetes will have fewer heart attacks and strokes? Will the newest generation of diabetes drugs improve mortality stats? Mostly, the answer appears to be no.

Are New Diabetes Drugs Better?

Over the last 20 years there have been lots of new diabetes drugs. You have undoubtedly seen the commercials on TV. Inevitably they are far more expensive than older generic medications like metformin. Some analysts put the price tag of the newest generation diabetes drugs at 10 to 100 times the older medications. Are they worth the cost? Here is a link to our thoughts on this question.

Metformin Saves Lives!

The history of metformin dates back to the 1920s and a folk medicine called French lilac (Galego officials). You can read about this very old drug at this link. Learn about the anti-cancer benefits of metformin at this link.

Metform Saves Lives by Reducing Heart Attacks:

Scientists have wondered whether diabetes drugs can actually lower the number of heart attacks. More importantly, is there any evidence that metformin saves lives?

Danish investigators tackled those questions by collecting data on everyone in northern Denmark who got an initial prescription for metformin between 2000 and 2012 (Diabetes Care, June, 2017). They also looked at HbA1C, a measure of blood sugar over time.

Those whose HbA1c dropped the most in the first six months were less likely than other people with diabetes to experience a heart attack or stroke. They were also less likely to die from those cardiovascular complications.

The Bottom Line on Metformin:

This very old diabetes medicine is one of the least expensive drugs in the drugstore. Not only does it help lower blood sugar, it appears to reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes. In addition, metformin may lower the risk of several serious cancers including breast cancer, liver cancer, thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer1 and prostate cancer2. If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of metformin, here is a link to a comprehensive article we have written on this subject.

If you found this information helpful, please vote at the top of the page and share your own experience with metformin in the comment section below.

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  1. Cindy B
    Prescott, Az

    I have been on Metforman for a year and a month ago had my gal bladder removed! I never had any previous problems with it! I do believe the Metforman caused me to have the problem! Not going to take it anymore

  2. Lynne

    I am quite positive that metformin causes gall bladder problems. I have spoken with many diabetics who have had their gall bladders removed and 100% of them were taking metformin. I had terrible gall bladder pain and was referred to a surgeon, but I stopped metformin and all the pain went away. I had done a home remedy on clearing gall stones but they kept coming back until I stopped taking metformin. I also have hepatitis and was unsure what it may be doing to my liver. It was, however, the only medicine I have found for lowering my blood sugar.

  3. Judi
    port st. lucie, fl 34986

    I crossed the line two months ago from normal blood sugar to Type 2 diabetes and was put on Metformin.

    I was very resistant to taking another drug and fearful of side effects. But, after reading this article and the generous comments of readers, I feel assured and safe now that my doctor did the right thing for me to keep me healthy.

    Thank you!

  4. Jan
    The Villages, Fl

    I tried Metformine three different times and developed sever diarrhea and had to give up. Too bad.

  5. Shirley

    My husband was on Metformin for 20 years or more. Two of his brothers died in their 60’s from severe complications of diabetes, but he lived to a healthy 83 and died from a ruptured aortic aneurism. All those years the doctors said Metformin regulated his blood sugar numbers perfectly.

  6. Cara

    The side effects of metformin were not worth it to me. Explosive diarrhea without warning produced horrible accidents.

  7. steve

    I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 4 years ago at age 66; blood sugar of 334 (don’t know what a1C was at that time). Was prescribed metformin and had the worst side effects I’ve ever had from any medicine; constant diarrhea and terrible stomach cramps for 3 days (and on a low dose, 500mg twice a day); didn’t know what was happening. Went off metformin and decided to control the diabetes with diet and exercise. Went from eating 250-300mg of carbs per day to 90-100; 3 months later A1c was 5.7 and has remained there or lower ever since (5.4-5.7). I know metformin has helped many, many people, but it was not for me, and if you can’t take it either, try lowering your carbs, a little at a time if you have to, and see if it helps. My experience shows you don’t have to go on an extreme low carb diet (20-30 grams of carbs a day, which most people can’t do) to have great results.

  8. Joy

    I was put on Metformin and it did what it was supposed to do: get my A1C back into normal range. But I have fibromyalgia and it exacerbated my muscle pain – my entire body hurt. I went off of it for several months and tried it again – same problem. Tried 3 times and experienced loads of pain. I am so disappointed.

  9. Deanna

    Having been prescribed Metformn more than 13 years ago for PCOS, I am hoping that it does help with heart disease and cancers. I was exposed to DES when my mom was pregnant with me and my risks of certain cancers are incredibly increased. Because of family history of diabetes and my own PCOS, my glucose is now a problem. I am beginning to think this cheap medication may actual be the one that saves my life – with zero side effects.

    • Mary

      Please make sure your B12 levels are okay. Metformin does deplete it over time in almost everyone. It may deplete other B’s as well. I don’t remember.

  10. Geri
    New Jersey

    I have been using Metformin for almost 25 years A1C in good range between 6 and 6.4 I am 73 years old and I believe this medication has helped me keep those numbers and control my diabetes .

  11. Rick
    Dallas, Tx

    I have been on Metformin for over 4 years. I noticed a reduction In my blood sugar of about 7_8 percent in the first few weeks, and a subsequent continuing suppression of increase.

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