Metformin Might Be Safe for Patients with Kidney Disease After All
As one of the oldest and most common treatments for diabetes, metformin is normally not recommended for patients with kidney disease due to the risk of lactic acidosis, a potentially serious condition that can lead to life-threatening complications.
Yet a new study from Yale researchers suggests that metformin may be safer for these patients than previously thought, which could enable them to manage their diabetes with one of the most effective drugs currently available.
"What we found is that there is essentially zero evidence that this is risky," said Dr. Silvio E. Inzucchi, lead study author and medical director of the Yale Diabetes Center. "The drug could be used safely, so long as kidney function is stable and not severely impaired."
Preventing a downward spiral
According to Dr. Inzucchi, the findings are important because many physicians stop prescribing metformin to older adults as kidney function begins to decline.
"What invariably happens next is their diabetes goes out of control," Inzucchi said. "Other drugs may be substituted, but they are usually not generic products like metformin, and so more expensive and may also have more side effects."
The study revealed that the risk for patients taking metformin who had mild to moderate kidney disease was comparable to individuals not taking the drug at all.
Not all individuals - especially those with severe kidney disease - should be taking metformin, Inzucchi warned, but with a broader understanding of metformin's safetly profile, the drug could potentially help an estimated 2.5 million Americans who have type 2 diabetes.
The study is published in Journal of the American medical Association.