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Metformin (Molecule of the Month for December 2011)

Glucophage, Carbophage SR, Riomet, Fortamet, Glumetza, Obimet, Gluformin, Dianben, Diabex, Diaformin

Metformin is an oral antidiabetic drug in the biguanide class. It is the first-line drug of choice for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, in particular, in overweight and obese people and those with normal kidney function. Its use in gestational diabetes has been limited by safety concerns. It is also used in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome, and has been investigated for other diseases where insulin resistance may be an important factor. Metformin works by suppressing glucose production by the liver. Metformin is the only antidiabetic drug that has been conclusively shown to prevent the cardiovascular complications of diabetes. It helps reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and is not associated with weight gain

First synthesized and found to reduce blood sugar in the 1920s, metformin was forgotten for the next two decades as research shifted to insulin and other antidiabetic drugs. Interest in metformin was rekindled in the late 1940s after several reports that it could reduce blood sugar levels in people, and in 1957, French physician Jean Sterne published the first clinical trial of metformin as a treatment for diabetes. It was introduced to the United Kingdom in 1958, Canada in 1972, and the United States in 1995. Metformin is now believed to be the most widely prescribed antidiabetic drug in the world; in the United States alone, more than 48 million prescriptions were filled in 2010 for its generic formulations.

The biguanide class of antidiabetic drugs, which also includes the withdrawn agents phenformin and buformin, originates from the French lilac or goat's rue (Galega officinalis), a plant used in folk medicine for several centuries. Metformin was first described in the scientific literature in 1922, by Emil Werner and James Bell, as a product in the synthesis of N,N-dimethylguanidine. Interest in metformin, however, picked up at the end of the 1940s. In 1950, metformin, unlike some other similar compounds, was found not to decrease blood pressure and heart rate in animals. That same year, a prominent Philippine physician, Eusebio Y. Garcia, used metformin (he named it Fluamine) to treat influenza; he noted the drug "lowered the blood sugar to minimum physiological limit" and was nontoxic. Garcia also believed metformin to have bacteriostatic, antiviral, antimalarial, antipyretic and analgesic actions. While training at the Hôpital de la Pitié, French diabetologist Jean Sterne studied the antihyperglycemic properties of galegine, an alkaloid isolated from Galega officinalis, which is related in structure to metformin and had seen brief use as an antidiabetic before the synthalins were developed. Later, working at Laboratoires Aron in Paris, he was prompted by Garcia's report to reinvestigate the blood sugar lowering activity of metformin and several biguanide analogs. Sterne was the first to try metformin on humans for the treatment of diabetes; he coined the name "Glucophage" (glucose eater) for the drug and published his results in 1957

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
N,N-Dimethylimidodicarbonimidic diamide



Picture of Metformin

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Picture of Metformin


Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for December 2011 )