Metformin is an oral antidiabetic medication belonging to the biguanide group of drugs used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Click here to read our Diabetes and Metformin FAQs including information on lactic acidosis.

Other names for metformin

Metformin is sold both under many brand names, and also as a generic drug. Common brand names include:

  • Glucophage
  • Riomet
  • Fortamet
  • Glumetza
  • Obimet
  • Dianben
  • Diabex
  • Diaformin

Metformin for diabetes

Metformin contains the active ingredient metformin hydrochloride (or metformin hcl). Metformin is available both in combination with other drugs, or as a single treatment (a monotherapy).

Metformin was approved in 1994 (in the USA) and is prescribed as:

  • 500mg tablets
  • 850mg tablets
  • 500mg modified-release tablets
  • 750mg modified-release tablets
  • 1g modified-release tablets
  • 1g oral powder sachets sugar free
  • 500mg oral powder sachets sugar free
  • 500mg/5ml oral solution sugar free

Metformin SR

Metformin is an oral antidiabetic drug used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes

Metformin is also available as metformin SR, a slow release or modified release form of the medication.

Modified release versions of metformin may be prescribed for people experiencing significant gastro-intestinal intolerance as a result of standard metformin.

How does metformin work?

Metformin is a type 2 diabetic drug that works by inhibiting hepatic glucose production, also known as gluconeogenesis and improving insulin sensitivity. This enhances glucose uptake and utilisation by the body.

Like most diabetic drugs, the ultimate goals of metformin are to lower blood sugar to a normal level and maintain this level. Metformin can be used in conjunction with other diabetic drugs, and diabetics should also use diet and exercise to help control their condition.

Metformin is suitable for women who have gestational diabetes. Speak to your doctor before taking any medication.

How it works

Metformin helps the body to control blood sugar in several ways. The drug helps type 2 diabetics respond better to their own insulin, lower the amount of sugar created by the liver, and decreasing the amount of sugar absorbed by the intestines.

When taken alone, Metformin is unlikely to cause hypoglycemia or weight gain, but if it is administered alongside insulin or a sulfonylurea both of these side effects are more likely.

Many research studies have demonstrated decreased cancer risk and improved mortality rates amongst people with type 2 diabetes on metformin.

Side effects

Like most medications, metformin can have side effects. Many people report having to diarrhoea as a result of taking the drug, which in some cases passes over time.

It’s important to speak to your doctor should any side effects become painful or impinge on your daily routine.

On the forum

Whether you’re currently using metformin or would like to find out more, the metformin forum is a place where members of the diabetes community can share their first-hand experiences with the drug, offering advice and support to others.

Metformin and cancer benefits

A number of research studies indicate that metformin may be beneficial in reducing incidence of a variety of cancers.

Metformin and COVID-19s

More recently, metformin has been researched in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is it possible to come off metformin?

By making lifestyle changes such as regularly exercising and eating healthy foods, it is possible to decrease your blood HbA1c levels, improving your type 2 diabetes to the point you no longer need to take metformin.

Healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes means Kate no longer needs to take metformin to manage her condition.

Following the structured Low Carb Program helped Kate lose 19kg and she no longer needs metformin to help manage her diabetes.

Find out how she did it, and read other diabetes success stories here.


Metformin is contraindicated in patients with severe kidney impairment, metabolic acidosis, or known hypersensitivity to metformin.

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