Happy 95th Birthday, Metformin

The chemical metformin is contained in the French lilac and was used for 2000 years.  In 1922, the molecule was isolated from the plant and used to lower blood sugar in rabbits by 1929.  However, the discovery of insulin eclipsed all other diabetes medications until the 1950s.

By the 1950s, researchers realized that Diabetes is not a single disease.  Metformin was again studied.  It was approved in France in 1957 under the name Glucophage-“glucose eater”.    The US approved an evil cousin of metformin-phenformin-which caused a life threatening condition of lactic acidosis.  It was withdrawn from the market.  It was not until 1995 that metformin came to the US.

Metformin improves insulin resistance which is the genetic abnormality causing much of Type 2 Diabetes.  Because of improvement in insulin resistance, it can be used for prediabetes and insulin resistant starts such as polycystic ovary syndrome.

Because some cancers are fed by high insulin levels, metformin also causes a reduction in incidence and severity of some cancers.  Metformin reduces appetite and central body fat.  Restrictions to metformin use include kidney problems and side-effects such as diarrhea.

Overall, metformin is a great medication and this idea has been sustained over its entire life so far.   Live long and prosper, metformin and all the people that take it.