Saturday, January 29, 2011

Does Metformin Hydrochloride contain Harmful Side Effects?

While I was cleaning up my room from piles of scrap paper, I chanced upon old news clippings by my Dad. One was about a diabetes drug that has a potential to kill. I remembered Dad discussed it with me before. I could not determine the newspaper where Dad had cut the clippings and when it was written except that the article was from Chicago.

This is an image of metformin tablet.
It is said to potentially cause lactic
acidosis, which could be fatal if the
patient has heart or kidney disease.
Otherwise, it is safe and effective.

The article was about a research study made that time regarding diabetic patients with kidney or heart failure being inappropriately prescribed with a drug (which is metformin) that could potentially kill them.

According to the article, “metformin could cause a rare side effect called lactic acidosis, a build up of lactic acid in the blood that is fatal in about 50% of cases. Patients with heart disease or kidney failure are especially prone”.

In fact, the article said that the drug package insert contains a black-box warning- required by the US government for drugs with potentially serious side effects- and said that it should not be used by patients with kidney disease or on drug treatment for heart failure.

Although, in their study, none of the 100 patients developed lactic acidosis however, the study “may underestimate the frequency of contraindications and it is difficult to determine whether clinicians are aware they are prescribing metformin against a black-box warning,” the researchers said.

Cheryl Holden, lead researcher said, “the problem isn’t unique to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill hospital pharmacy where the study was done”. The University of Pittsburgh researchers and European studies found the same rate of inappropriate use according to the article.

Metformin helps the body use insulin and control blood glucose levels. Holden, emphasized though that patients should not stop taking the medicine without consulting their doctors.

This should remind people not to self-medicate. Never take drugs without consulting a licensed physician first because there are drugs that may cause adverse side effects and could aggravate a patient’s condition if inappropriately taken. Metformin poses no serious danger if the patient has no heart or kidney problem.

When I learned about this article, I wanted to discuss the matter with Mom’s doctor especially after I observed that Mom’s condition seemed deteriorating. Mom had been suffering from a heart disease and I thought that metformin could be causing more trouble. However, I didn’t get a chance to talk to her doctor about it.

In her next check up, I observed however, that her doctor replaced metformin with gliclazide. Noticeably, after that second check up, Mom’s condition improved remarkably. It would be presumptuous to conclude that metformin was the culprit but it was the only difference in the prescription.

Mom still has episodes of moderate to high to very high blood pressure. She would have hypertension attack whenever she would get tired or under stress. It is important to note that treatment of hypertension goes beyond medicines. Important factors are diet, exercise and a happy environment.

Image above courtesy of:

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