In December 2019, Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority recalled three out of 46 metformin medicines, which contained unsafe levels of NDMA, a cancer-causing chemical.
Understanding why metformin is not banned is a complicated issue. In many countries, including the United States, doctors continue to prescribe metformin medications. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently found unsafe levels of NDMA in metformin and issued a voluntary recall for five companies that sell the drug, but recommended that patients continue to take metformin until a doctor can prescribe a replacement.
Type 2 Diabetes in the United States
One reason why metformin is not banned is the number of people who depend on using it daily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 34 million Americans have diabetes, with between 90 and 95 percent having type 2 diabetes. Metformin is primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes and cannot be used to treat type 1 diabetes.
Metformin is reported to effectively lower blood glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes when used as the only medication for diabetes treatment or in conjunction with other diabetes medications. Some people do not need any medication to manage type 2 diabetes, but it depends largely on the individual’s diligent approach to self-care, exercise, a healthy diet, and an active lifestyle to mitigate issues from type 2 diabetes.
History of Metformin
According to the medical journal, Diabetologia, contemporary formulas for metformin were first developed in the early 20th century, before which diabetes could be considered a death sentence.
The early version of metformin could cause deadly liver disease, and it was not yet widely used.
It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s when metformin as we know it became available for public use in the United States, where it is now considered one of the top medication treatments for type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia reports that it is the “most prescribed glucose-lowering medicine worldwide with the potential for further therapeutic applications.”
Functions of Metformin
Metformin lowers glucose levels in the blood. For gestational diabetes, it can be used as an alternative to insulin injections. It is touted for its weight-neutral nature, meaning it neither contributes nor aids directly in weight loss. Because of this, people with diabetes taking metformin may have an easier time adjusting to a healthy lifestyle and diet, which is another way doctors recommend treating type 2 diabetes.
Metformin can currently be prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes over the age of 10, including pregnant women. However, type 2 diabetes is usually associated with older age and other worsening health conditions, so its effects on younger people are not well studied.
Risks of NDMA
NDMA, or N-nitrosodimethylamine, can be found in some commercially manufactured products. It is a manmade research chemical originally used in rocket fuel until it was found to contaminate soil, air, and water.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry performed tests on lab rats and mice, feeding them amounts of NDMA to understand its effects. When rodents consumed NDMA for an extended time period, they developed liver and lung cancer.
Additionally, when non-cancerous damage occurred, some of the animals still faced severe consequences, like liver damage and internal bleeding.
If something causes cancer in animals, it does not definitively mean that it is a human carcinogen as well. However, there are FDA places limitations on how much NDMA can be in consumer-level products.
Recently, over-the-counter medication Zantac was removed from stores for containing ranitidine, which was found to potentially contain unsafe levels of NDMA. This is an understandable reason for concern for anyone taking medications, prescription or over-the-counter, who fear for their wellness, as metformin and other drugs face scrutiny by pharmaceutical researchers.
Prepare for the Fight Against NDMA
If you or a loved one are prescribed metformin, know your consumer rights and become informed about your potential legal actions. If you developed cancer or another unexpected health condition after taking metformin, you could be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, treatment costs, and pain and suffering.
With the uncertainty surrounding NDMA in everyday medications, having a lawyer help you understand the risks and potential legal options you have can be extremely helpful. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm to speak with a member of our team about the fight against NDMA at (800) 635-1144.