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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Metformin: an old but still the best treatment for type 2 diabetes

Lilian Beatriz Aguayo Rojas and Marilia Brito Gomes

Author Affiliations

Department of Medicine, Diabetes Unit, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Av 28 setembro 77, Rio de Janeiro CEP20555-030, Brazil

Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome 2013, 5:6  doi:10.1186/1758-5996-5-6

Published: 15 February 2013

Abstract

The management of T2DM requires aggressive treatment to achieve glycemic and cardiovascular risk factor goals. In this setting, metformin, an old and widely accepted first line agent, stands out not only for its antihyperglycemic properties but also for its effects beyond glycemic control such as improvements in endothelial dysfunction, hemostasis and oxidative stress, insulin resistance, lipid profiles, and fat redistribution. These properties may have contributed to the decrease of adverse cardiovascular outcomes otherwise not attributable to metformin’s mere antihyperglycemic effects. Several other classes of oral antidiabetic agents have been recently launched, introducing the need to evaluate the role of metformin as initial therapy and in combination with these newer drugs. There is increasing evidence from in vivo and in vitro studies supporting its anti-proliferative role in cancer and possibly a neuroprotective effect. Metformin’s negligible risk of hypoglycemia in monotherapy and few drug interactions of clinical relevance give this drug a high safety profile. The tolerability of metformin may be improved by using an appropiate dose titration, starting with low doses, so that side-effects can be minimized or by switching to an extended release form. We reviewed the role of metformin in the treatment of patients with type 2 diabetes and describe the additional benefits beyond its glycemic effect. We also discuss its potential role for a variety of insulin resistant and pre-diabetic states, obesity, metabolic abnormalities associated with HIV disease, gestational diabetes, cancer, and neuroprotection.

Keywords:
Metformin; Diabetes mellitus; Insulin; Resistance