Metformin works by reducing the amount of glucose (sugar) your body makes. Metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for type 2 diabetes, and it is also used for weight loss. It's a member of a class of medications called biguanides, which are used to treat type 2 diabetes and other conditions.
While it is FDA approved for use in patients with diabetes, it is commonly prescribed off-label in the treatment of obesity and other conditions, such as PCOS.
Metformin can be found under common brand names such as Glumetza and Riomet. Metformin oral tablet comes in two forms: immediate-release and extended-release. The immediate-release tablet is available as a generic drug. The extended-release tablet is available as the brand-name drugs Fortamet and Glumetza.
Both tablet forms are available as generic drugs. Generics usually cost less than brand-name versions. In some cases, they may not be available in all strengths or forms as brand-name drugs.
Although metformin does not boost insulin levels in the body, it does decrease sugar production and absorption. Metformin lowers blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity. It also decreases the amount of glucose our bodies absorb from meals by decreasing glucose absorption from food.
There are a few ways that metformin might affect weight. One way is that the medication reduces appetite. This is because it increases the body's sensitivity to hormones such as insulin and leptin. Leptin tells your body when you're full, so increased levels of this hormone means you'll feel less hungry. Research also suggests that metformin might increase secretion of the GLP-1 hormone—which suppresses appetite and causes weight loss.
Metformin is used to treat diabetes, usually in combination with a healthy diet and exercise program. It's utilized in people who have type 2 diabetes. Controlling blood sugar helps avoid kidney damage, blindness, nerve issues, loss of limbs, and sexual function abnormalities. Controlling your diabetes might also help you reduce your chance of having a heart attack. However, metformin does more than just help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. It also offers them cardiovascular benefits, including lower rates of death due to cardiovascular disease. And it sometimes helps people with diabetes lose excess weight.
Studies show that metformin may also have health benefits for people who don’t have diabetes. Doctors have long prescribed it off-label—that is, to treat conditions outside its approved use, including:
For example, people with prediabetes have elevated blood sugar that isn’t yet high enough to qualify as diabetes. Metformin may delay the onset of diabetes or even prevent it among people with prediabetes. For individuals with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which tends to affect young women whose ovaries develop multiple cysts, metformin has been prescribed for years to help with menstrual regulation, fertility, and elevated blood sugar.
While not medically labeled as a weight-loss drug, research has shown that Metformin can contribute to significant reduction in body weight. A recent study published in the Journal of Diabetes Care confirmed that the medication was successful when used for long periods of time, leading to average weight loss between 4-7 pounds per year. When combined with other treatments such as an exercise or diet program, this number could potentially increase significantly.
Typical dosage of metformin depends on the type of metformin you've been prescribed.
Immediate release tables typically start at a dose of 500 mg, twice per day, or 850 mg, once per day, taken with a meal. Your Alfie doctor may increase your dosage by 500 mg weekly or 850 mg every 2 weeks, up to a total of 2,550 mg taken per day in divided doses. If your dosage is over 2,000 mg, you will likely be recommended to separate your dose and take it three times per day to avoid mild side effects.
Extended-release tablets typically start at a dose of 500 mg taken once per day with your evening meal. Your Alfie doctor may increase your dosage by 500 mg weekly every week until you reach a maximum dose of 2,000 mg per day.
Metformin is often used in step therapy as a less potent medication before trying diabetes medications such as Ozempic or other GLP-1 drugs.
Metformin is an affordable generic drug. A one-month prescription for 60, 1000 mg tablets averages $20, less than thirty cents per pill. Most people will take metformin for many years if not a lifetime, so patients can expect to pay less than $240 a year if they’re paying the full cash price. Health insurance will reduce that cost, but the yearly out-of-pocket cost depends on the insurance plan, copay cost and deductible.
There are various coupons online for metformin. You can visit websites like GoodRX or RXSaver to see if a coupon is available for this medication.
Metformin is not available over-the-counter and must be prescribed by a medical professional. Patients should be wary of purchasing metformin online because some websites may not be legitimate and may try to sell counterfeit or expired drugs. It is best to use metformin directly prescribed by a physician in combination with other medications so your progress can be monitored by clinical experts for your safety.
Metformin does not work right away to reduce blood sugar levels. After 48 hours, the effects are generally apparent, and the most significant changes will appear after 4-5 days. Weight loss on metformin is noticeable after the first week.
Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects. Possible side effects of metformin include nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, diarrhea, weakness, or a metallic taste in the mouth. If any of these symptoms persists or worsens after you've taken your medicine, notify your doctor right away.
Metformin does not usually cause hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. If you take other diabetes medicine(s), low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) may occur. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see whether the dose of your other diabetes medication(s) needs to be adjusted.
Shaking, sweating, a racing heart, hunger, vision problems, dizziness, or tingling hands/feet are all symptoms of hypoglycemia. It's a good idea to keep glucose tablets or gel on hand to treat low blood sugar if you have been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes Mellitus and are at risk of low blood sugar.When blood sugar levels are too low, you are more likely to have hypoglycemia. If you drink a lot of alcohol, do heavy exercise, or don't get enough calories from food, your blood sugar levels may be too low. Eat meals on a regular basis and don't skip meals to help prevent low blood sugar.
You shouldn’t drink alcohol while taking this drug. Alcohol can lead to increased risk of lactic acidosis from metformin. Alcohol may also raise or lower your blood sugar levels.