According to StatPearls, Metformin refers to the generic name of a series of pharmaceuticals prescribed to patients with diabetes. This generic name derives from metformin drugs’ main ingredient, also known as metformin hydrochloride. Technically, doctors do not prescribe metformin on its own. Instead, they prescribe a drug that contains metformin as its active ingredient. The medical community uses the generic term to describe metformin-containing drugs, including brand name drugs.
Inactive ingredients vary by brand and formulation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists the inactive ingredients of Fortamet Extended-Release Tablets as:
- Candelilla wax
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
- Titanium dioxide
- Cellulose acetate
- Polyethylene glycols
- Polysorbate 80
- Magnesium stearate
- Synthetic black iron oxides
A Harvard Health article notes that, while pharmaceutical companies use inactive ingredients to increase shelf life, mask bitter taste, promote absorption, and as a binding agent, certain ingredients can cause reactions, especially in older people, lactose-intolerant patients, and those with food allergies or sensitivities.
Uses of Metformin
According to Mayo Clinic, doctors prescribe metformin, an oral medication, to patients with Type 2 Diabetes to help control blood sugar levels. In type 2 diabetes, insulin from the pancreas cannot effectively move sugar into cells in the areas of the body that require it. Metformin can help lower the amount of sugar and help the body use food to make energy. Patients can boost the efficiency of metformin with diet and exercise, and some use it in conjunction with insulin, as well. Type 1 diabetics should not take the drug, as what is in metformin does not treat their form of the disease.
Diabetic patients who take metformin include children ages ten and up, adults (including pregnant women), and the elderly.
Metformin Combination Drugs
In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have combined certain diabetes medications with metformin to make combination drugs. Doctors often prescribe Janumet or Janumet XR (Extended Release), a blend of metformin and Janumet (sitagliptin) to type 2 diabetes patients. MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine describes sitagliptin as a diabetes drug that increases levels of naturally produced substances that help increase the release of insulin for the control of blood sugar. Some patients may find that its risks outweigh its benefits.
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Potential Dangers of Metformin
For decades, the medical field touted metformin as one of the safest and most effective drugs for type 2 diabetes. Doctors prescribe metformin more than any other diabetes drug, and many patients experience few or no issues. For others, though, the risk of serious side effects may cause concern.
explains that one of the most dangerous reported side effects of metformin, lactic acidosis, may present with vague symptoms that make it hard to diagnose, such as malaise, respiratory trouble, and digestive issues. Lactic acidosis involves the buildup of lactate in the body, which lowers the pH of the blood and can lead to kidney failure, respiratory failure, or even death if left untreated.
While doctors do not prescribe metformin to patients with known kidney, heart, or liver disease, as these conditions may make lactic acidosis significantly more dangerous for the patients, these conditions may go undiagnosed, especially in their early stages.
Other Side Effects
Other side effects of metformin include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and flatulence. Most of the side effects of metformin involve gastrointestinal issues that, while not severe, may cause discomfort. In cases in which the symptoms do not resolve on their own, serious effects can occur.
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In 2019, patients and consumer advocates became concerned about what metformin contains, particularly regarding levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a known carcinogen. While the FDA deemed safe the samples of metformin drugs they tested and said they contained no to extremely low levels of NDMA, Valisure, an online pharmacy that batch tests each order, reported radically different findings, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Patients filed claims against the companies, which they hold responsible for intentionally misleading and defrauding consumers by neglecting to provide important information about what is in metformin.
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Discuss Your Case with a Drug Injury Attorney
When you see your doctor about your medical conditions, you trust that the medications they prescribe will help to improve your health and your quality of life. Unfortunately, drug companies sometimes make false claims or fail to disclose the dangers of their products, and you may suffer adverse effects as a result.
If you experienced health issues that you believe your use of metformin induced or worsened, our attorneys can help you determine if you have a drug injury case. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 635-1144 for your free case evaluation.