Metformin Linked to Lower Risk for Joint Replacement

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Metformin Linked to Lower Risk for Joint Replacement

Taking the type 2 diabetes drug metformin may reduce the need for joint replacement, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Many people with diabetes will need joint (knee or hip) replacement at some point, and studies have shown that certain treatments are linked to better outcomes in people who undergo this procedure. Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery — which has been shown to help improve blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes, and can even lead to remission of diabetes — has also been shown to improve outcomes related to knee replacement and may even lead to improvements that make knee replacement unnecessary in some cases. Research has also shown that for people with type 2 diabetes who undergo knee replacement, taking a vitamin D supplement is linked to improved blood glucose control.

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For the latest study, researchers were interested in finding out whether there is a relationship between taking metformin and needing knee or hip replacement in people with type 2 diabetes. To do this, they used data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database to look at people who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between 2000 and 2012. Participants were chosen so that those who took metformin and those who didn’t had otherwise similar characteristics, making it less likely that other factors could explain why certain people ended up needing joint replacement. A total of 40,694 participants with an average age of 63 were included in the study, evenly matched between those who took metformin and those who didn’t.

Metformin linked to reduced rates of joint replacement

Compared with participants who didn’t take metformin, those who took the drug were 30% less likely to undergo joint replacement at any time. The risk for knee replacement was 29% lower in participants who took metformin, while the risk for hip replacement was 39% lower. Since the researchers adjusted for blood glucose control between the two groups of participants, it’s not possible that metformin reduced the risk for joint replacement simply through its effect on blood glucose — and the researchers could only speculate regarding why metformin had the effect that it apparently did.

“The biological mechanisms linking metformin and [osteoarthritis] are yet to be clarified,” the researchers wrote. “Metformin could decrease the risk of total joint replacement among patients with diabetes mellitus by multiple mechanisms, including by reducing inflammation […] and by regulating metabolism.” More studies are needed, they noted, to find out whether prescribing metformin specifically for people with diabetes and osteoarthritis reduces the need for joint replacement.

Want to learn more about joint health? Read “Joint Exercises for Staying Limber,” “14 Ways to Reduce Joint Pain With Diabetes,” “Thawing Out That Frozen Shoulder,” and “Diabetes Hand Disorders.”

Want to learn more about metformin? Read “What to Know About Metformin,” “Diabetes Medicine: Metformin,” and “Metformin: The Unauthorized Biography.”

Living with type 2 diabetes? Check out our free type 2 e-course!

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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