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Metformin reduces deaths in COVID-positive women

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

A recent study has found that metformin, a common diabetes drug, can reduce death risk due to COVID among women who are hospitalized due to the deadly viral infection.


  • Metformin is a common drug used for the management of type 2 diabetes

  • A recent study has found that the drug can be effective in preventing deaths due to COVID-19, especially in women

  • The drug has anti-inflammatory effects that play a role in reducing mortality risk

New Delhi: Various drugs used for the treatment of several viral infections, and other conditions have been re-purposed and tested to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Some popular drugs that have been used previously to treat COVID-19 include remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, and others.

A recent study has found that a common diabetes drug, metformin, can reduce death risk in women who have tested positive for the coronavirus infection. The results of the study investigating metformin use, obesity, diabetes risk, and COVID-19 mortality appear in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

Metformin has anti-inflammatory effects Metformin is a safe, effective, and inexpensive drug used to keep diabetes under control. It elevates anti-inflammatory levels while decreasing the inflammatory markers in people with or without diabetes.

Metformin had shown positive effects in reducing mortality rates among COVID-19 patients taking the drug. This compelled researcher from the University of Minnesota Medical School, in Minneapolis, and UnitedHealth Group (UHG), in Miami, FL, to find out if it can reduce the risk of death in COVID-19 patients, and if any such effects were specific to a gender.

They took into consideration previous research findings that suggest that metformin reduced inflammation to a greater extent in women than in men.

“While effective therapies to mitigate the harm of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being developed, it is important that we also look to and evaluate commonly used medications with good safety profiles for their potential to combat the virus,” stated Dr. Deneen Vojta, co-senior study author and executive vice president of research and development at UHG.

Researchers analyzed data for 6 months. This data comprised of enrollment records, medical claims, laboratory results, and pharmacy claims for individuals of diverse ages, races, and ethnicities who had been admitted to hospitals with COVID-19.

Participants of the study were 18 years old, or older. They had a diagnosis of obesity or type 2 diabetes. They had also all been admitted to a hospital due to COVID-19.

The study analyzed the claims data of 6,256 individuals, with 3,923 in the non-metformin group and 2,333 in the metformin group.

In the non-metformin group, the average age was 76 years. Approximately 55 percent of the participants were female, and 95 percent had type 2 diabetes. In the metformin group, the average age was 73 years. Approximately 48 percent of them were female, and 99 percent had type 2 diabetes.

20.2 percent of those in the non-metformin group died of COVID-19 during hospitalization. However, mortality in the metformin group was reported at 16.9 percent.

The subgroup analysis of data by sex also showed a link between metformin use and decreased mortality in women.

While more research may be needed to back the claim, since retrospective analyses are often altered due to biases and unmeasured parameters, it may still prove an important step in reducing deaths due to the deadly coronavirus.

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