The diabetes drug metformin has anti-inflammatory properties that could benefit people with non-diabetic cardiovascular disease (CVD), research suggests.
Metformin is commonly used as a first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes, but previous studies have shown it can also improve survival in patients with pancreatic cancer, and prove useful in treating other conditions.
To further examine the potential of metformin, Dundee University researchers studied its anti-inflammatory effects.
They tested these effects on two different cohorts; one had type 2 diabetes, and the other had CVD but no diabetes. Patients either received metformin or sulphonylurea monotherapy – none of whom took either drug at the start of the trial.
Co-lead author Dr Graham Rena explained that metformin acts differently to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs by inhibiting a different target. These anti-inflammatory effects were observed in both cohorts.
“This may accelerate investigation of drug utility in non-diabetic cardiovascular disease groups,” according to the researchers, who now plan to conduct trials that identify “specific non-diabetic” patient groups who could benefit from metformin.
Professor Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation added: “These findings offer further evidence that old drugs can perform new tricks.
“Repurposed medicines can much more quickly benefit patients. If this existing and affordable drug can be repurposed as a heart disease treatment, then this is excellent news for the 2.3 million people in the UK living with the condition.”
The study appears online in Circulation Research, the online journal of the American Heart Association.

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