Metformin, a common treatment for Type 2 diabetes (T2D), has been known to offer numerous health benefits beyond glucose control, including potential benefits to cognitive decline, cancer rates, and cardiovascular health. Many people are taking the drug on the assumption that it increases life expectancy too. A recent study aimed to examine the impact of Metformin on longevity in T2D patients over a 20-year period.
Researchers compared the medical records of over 129,000 T2D patients treated with metformin and 68,000 treated with another diabetes medication, sulphonylurea. The two groups were similar in terms of gender distribution and smoking rates, but the sulphonylurea group was older on average. Interestingly, over half of the sulphonylurea group had also been treated with metformin, but only 11% of the metformin group had used sulphonylurea.
The results showed that both metformin and sulphonylurea patients lived shorter lives on average compared to non-diabetic individuals, but metformin patients fared better than those on sulphonylurea therapy. Intriguingly, metformin patients lived longer than non-diabetic individuals in the first year of treatment, but this benefit disappeared after three years.
Patients on metformin also had lower lifetime rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease compared to the sulphonylurea group, even when excluding individuals who had a history of these diseases before starting treatment.
The study concluded that while metformin does show short-term survival benefits and may contribute to a decrease in cancer and cardiovascular disease rates, the long-term benefits on lifespan are not as clear and could be overshadowed by the negative impacts of T2D and associated health issues. More research is needed to tease apart the effects of the medication from the progression of the disease itself and associated lifestyle changes.
Research by , Cardiff University published in BMC Public Health.