Diabetes Drug Metformin May Reduce Risk of Death

The blood-glucose-lowering drug metformin may reduce risk of death from any cause by as much as 24% in people with Type 2 diabetes, according to preliminary research presented at the 2010 meeting of the American Diabetes Association. Over 100 million people worldwide are currently prescribed metformin.


Earlier studies, including the landmark United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) from 1999, have indicated that there might be a link between metformin and reduced mortality. To investigate the potential association, researchers in France analyzed data from the Reduction of Atherosclerosis in Health (REACH) registry, which included information on over 67,000 people from 44 countries. (REACH was designed to look at potential risk-management strategies in people at risk of a cardiovascular condition known as atherothrombotic disease.) From this group, the investigators looked at 19,699 people older than age 45 who had diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease or another atherothrombotic risk factor. Forty percent of the study group was being treated with metformin; those on the medicine were generally younger, heavier, and had better kidney function.

Over two years, 1,270 people died. The researchers found that people taking metformin had a 33% decrease in risk of death compared to those not taking metformin. After adjusting for various factors, overall reduction in the risk of death was still 24%.

According to lead study author Ronan Roussel, MD, PhD, “In secondary prevention patients, the use of metformin was associated with a significant reduction in all-cause mortality after two years of follow-up… this adds to the strength of evidence that suggests a mortality benefit.”

Roussel suggested that the protective effect may apply more to women, people between the ages of 40 and 80, people with a history of heart failure, and those who are using insulin in addition to metformin. He notes that the results of this study should be explored in future research.

For more information, read the article “ADA: Mortality Lower With Metformin.” And to learn more about metformin, click here.

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  • Peter H. BurkeI

    I had a Liver Transplant in July 2009, before I was taking Januva and Metformin after the Transplant I was taking of Metformin due to complications with the Anti-Rejection medication.

  • Jack Lefkowitz

    There obviously needs to be more research on this, vis-a-vis other sugar-lowering and/or insulin-increasing drugs. I use Januvia and when I’m not terribly careful with my diet, I supplement with Amaryl (Glimeperide)in very small dosage (1 mg.). I used Metformin for quite a while and found it to be totally ineffective in my case in lowering blood sugar. I also had associated problems such as extreme tiredness and digestive problems. I realize everyone is different, but just wanted to share my experience.

  • Deborah Turner

    I like the fact that Metformin has a study out that lowers the risk of death, whether it lowers sugars or not. Frankly, I think Glyburide and Actose do a lot better job than Metformin, but they work in different areas of the body. With diabetes meds being looked at so closely right now, it’s nice to have one that actually LOWERS the risk of death. I’ll take it just for that, whether it helps my sugars levels or not, although on the whole it seems to keep them pretty stable.

  • virginia morris

    metformin starting to shut down all major organs and stressed out my kidneys they decided to put me on glyciride instead and it works great for me

  • Mary Lou Gillard

    I object to the teaser headline on your story about Metformin and the “risk” of death.
    With Advandia in the news recently being associated with the INCREASE in risk of heart attack and stroke I can see patients thinking Metformin was also implicated but not clicking on the story to see that in fact Metformin caused a REDUCTION om heart attack.

  • pauly baker

    i just cross my fingers anymore and hope for the beat…type 2 patient on 500 metformin am and pm

  • Lana Wilkinson

    I agree with Mary Lou’s comment. My husband is taking Metformin and I think my pulse rate significantly accelerated from reading that headline! I had to read the first part of the article twice to make sure it said REDUCED the risk rather than increased the risk, as the headline implied.

  • Jerry

    I am taking metformin. Thanks for the good news. Jerry

  • Duane Oxford

    I agree with Mary Lou Gillard’s post. We’re talking about people’s health. I don’t think a teaser headline was necessary. I also agree with Mary that with all that has happened with Advandia, scaring people about Metformin doesn’t make for good news. It instantly gave me the wrong impression. I’ve been taking Metformin since I was first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. To think that this drug might cause me an early death was disturbing. A much better headline would have been, “Diabetes Drug Metformin May Reduce Risk of Death” (the article’s title). I would have been just as interested in reading the article. Leave the scare tactics to the tabloids please.

  • Paul Griffin

    Obviously different drugs can have different effects on each person so its important to work closely with your health care provider to find what works best for you.

    Metformin has been entirely effective for me with no noticeable side effects. Along with diet and exercise, this medication has helped me lower and maintain healthy blood sugar levels so for me this information is great news.

  • Linda Comfort

    I am type 2 diabetic taking Actos and Humulin N insulin. I can not afford to stay on Actos as I am nearing the “donut” hole with my meds. I am e-mailing the company about this. Metformin and I did not get along. I was on Avandia before Metformin and when the Dr. heard about all the complications he took me off of it. I was having heart problems at that time. Please, keep checking all of these meds. If they are to keep us alive they better be good.

  • Jimmie Young

    I also had a problem with the “teaser” headline on your story about Metformin and the risk of death. It scared me because I’ve been taking Metformin successfully for 10 years. The way it was stated made me think that it was proving to cause a greater risk of death…especially with the Avandia headline shown along with it….the American Diabetes Association should know better than to “tease” their members with that kind of headline.

  • Jimmie Young

    In my previous comment, I meant to say that Diabetes Self-Management (not the ADA) should know better that to “tease” their subscribers with that kind of e-mail headline.

  • Tia

    “Also, be sure to read this week’s Breaking News piece to find out about the results of a recent study on the popular diabetes drug metformin and risk of death.”

    You totally freaked me out when I read the above. That was really a mean thing to do. I have enough bad things actually happening to me healthwise without you scareing me half to death implying I’m going to die because I take Metformin twice a day. Shameful.

  • L. E. Morgan

    I’m in total agreement with Mary Gillard! When I saw the “Metformin and risk of death, drugs for Type 2”,in the heading, I am sure that my BP spiked because I just started a dosage change prescribed by my doctor increasing metformin. So the “misleading” subject is atrocious to say the least. Also, as one other person stated, metformin really seems to be ineffective lowering my blood sugar count, however, maybe the increase will help.

  • Elizabeth Arsenault

    I agree with Mary Lou Gillard; I assumed the negative about metformin until I opened the article. Not all will open the article to read. They will couple it with Avandia. The title could have read “Good News About Metformin.” That would really make people want to read it. Scare tactics don’t work for the ill. We have a scary problem & we are forced to rely on synthetic medications to keep us healty and alive and when the media uses scare tactics with their headlines, it’s not cool. Be nice to the people and give them some good news to read. I opened this article because I wanted to see if it was bad news. Many people will assume.

    As far as metformin working alone, it did not for me. I was put on a small dose of Actose along with a stronger dose of metformin and it worked. I do not have to go on insulin now. I hate taking the horse pills but I find if I swallow it with a banana it goes down my throat easier and you have to take it with food anyway. For my evening dose I take it with a different fruit. I don’t eat a banana more than once a day.

    Remember, think of the ill who are scared enough as it is. Scare tactics just raises blood pressures and stress levels. Use good news in headlines and people will read it. Scary headlines make them run away.

  • nancy

    some people should stop and think before they put taht kind of news out. think of all the people that take that medicine and what your news would do to them health wise.i myself think it was wrong of them to put that head line the way they did.so please think of the people next time you have some news. thank you nancy

  • Denise Miller

    As a writer, I understand you need to “tease” the reader into checking out a piece. But as a Type 2 diabetic on Metformin, that headline was a heart-stopper. You should respect and trust your readers more because we take this very seriously. Don’t become a “rag.” We don’t need it.

  • Betty Newby

    I have been a type 2 for about two years and they have changed my meds several times. I was on lantus and was doing good then they added metforman and it has been down hill every since. My sugars are all over the board so they put me on byatee it worked great for a while, then my sugars were all over the board again I asked to be taken off metforman, told the dr that I was having trouble with the drug he said don’t tell him that because there is nothing out there to give me besides metforman! I don’t believe this , I break out in a cold sweat after I take it and I know have a bad pain in my right side, They have moved me to januvia and give me a stronger metforman which is making the pain in my side worse. I have decided to see a speialist.

  • Henry Ford

    So much wasted talk about the ‘bad’ headline. Not really helpful to those of us that want to read facts about Metformin. We all have our own private opinion about whether the headline was a scare or not, but either way not really important. I would like people who had digestive problems with Metformin to advise me how they handled those problems. I was just recently diagnosed with Diabetes 2 and put on Metformin. I really cannot continue to take it because it gives me such diarhea and cramps etc. What can I do? My doctor also says Metformin is the best treatment.

  • Jayne Black

    Read recently a commentor had success with the
    HCG diet. Would love to know more about it. Have not seen it mentioned before.

  • still too fat

    RE: Henry Ford,

    When I started on Metformin I had the digestive issues as well. Turns out it wasn’t the Metformin, but the statin drug they started me on at the same time. They switched me to a different cholesterol med and over time the intestinal distress faded away. Any issues caused by the Metformin were temporary.

    And add me to the list of folks unhappy with the misleading headline. I don’t approve of scare tactics either.

  • Joyce Reed

    I AM type 2 diabetic I take metformin twice a day and i also take glimipride once a day as a helper. Metformin does the job by itself . i have been a diabetic for 30 years .its the lowest its ever been. thank god for metformin i`m asking to be taken off glimipride tomorrow because it lowers my sugar level to much and i start shakeing. then i have to grab a swwet thing to servive.i used to take insuline but all that did was swell me up i quit taking that on my own.

  • Joyce Reed

    I THINK IF YOUR HAVEING PROBLEMS WITH METFORMIN, YOUR SYSTEM MIGHT JUST HAVE TO HAVE TIME TO ADJUST TO IT . i believe i had problems with that to when i started them to . so henry ford give them a chance. I think they are a great diabetic pill.but i`m not a doctor.

  • George Hammond

    I have had Type 2 diabetes for some 20+ years. For the last 12 I have relied on glimipiride, but even at 8 mg (the maximum) my sugars were climbing. After adding 1000 mg of metformin per day the daily testing dropped to levels I had never hit before (in the 90’s+). HOORAY11

  • Paulette Harrill

    I was diagnosed with Type 2 12 yrs ago and put on Glucophage/metformin. About 3 yrs later, with the help of a nutritionist, I was able to get off of it via diet and exercise. As often happens, over time my numbers climbed upward somewhat. Two yrs ago I had emergency angioplasty at Hopkins where a stent were placed in my heart. My cardiologist recommended I go back on drugs for diabetes. I did so and was immediately so very ill. I lost weight that I didn’t need to lose and was exhausted all the time. I ate only what kept me going but had no appetite. Nine months later, I was back at Hopkins for another angioplasty and they placed 4 more stents in my heart. A few months after that I saw an internist who, after a lengthy questionnaire and examination, told me to go off of Metformin, that it was poisoning me. That was one year ago. The very next day I was less nauseous. I have gained back the weight I lost and feel like a new person.

  • smh

    A drug company took it upon theirselves to give me metformin instead of glucophage. I took it and my husband plus four daycare children thought I was dying, including myself. It most definitely did not help me.

  • G Bogardus

    I was taking Metformin for my type 2 Diabetes. It made me feel nauseous all the time but knowing the risks of the diabetes I did continue to take it and I ended up having kidney failure. Not once but twice. No one will say it was the Metformine but they do not know why my kidneys failed and I continue to have to take medication daily and have kidney functions ranging from 19 to 23%. I now am on insulin instead as I refuse to take the Metformine anymore as it makes me feel so nauseous all the time. I do also take glimeride.
    I also take high blood pressure meds so I’m sure its hard to pinpoint the true cause of my kidney failure but my Dr did say it acted like a drug reaction. As you can tell I don’t trust the Metformine. My husband was put on it and he also had adverse reaction. He lost his sense of taste.
    He got so he did not want to eat anything as everything tasted terrible. He takes actos now and that works fine.

    I don’t ususally write on these things but just had to let others know what happened to me.

    G B

  • Lori

    I have been on Metformin for several months now–twice a day for my Type 2. It has greatly helped me! Initially, I started on one dose a day to allow my body to adjust to the side effects–mainly stomach related. I then added in the second dose and have had nothing but great success.

    I feel, like other have said, that there is no one pill for every body. We are all affected differently by different foods, so why would we think one medication will work for everyone. Know your body and take charge of your care!

  • carol rozel

    i am on half morning and half supper time of 500 metformin and i have had sucess with it till i startd to read a lot of negitive articlesim torn about it i am seeing my dr. wed is it going to kill me or what

  • Alex Rounds

    My new MD was aghast at the regime my old MDs had prescribed. I was on Lanatus and Apidra (slow and fast acting insulin respectively,) as well as metformin, glymepride and a few blood pressure meds. He took me off Metformin, explaining there is no study or recommendation that ties the pills to the insulin. So he kept my insulin the same dosage and eliminated my long-used pills.

    But I read here that there are a variety of treatments that utilize both insulin and the other tools like metformin.

    Thanks for the new information.

  • jim snell


    I am glad I am on Insulin and metformin. My metformin does much heavy lifting as in my case my liver is kicking out too much excess glucose. In your situation, probably I guess that your Doctor has determined you do not need it and I assume you do not have my issues.

    For me there is no tie from metformin to Insulin other than the metformin reducing excess liver glucose if present and reducing the resulting insulin load to off the excess glucose to the muscles. ( which one has to exercise off in any event – no free lunch.)