Combining insulin and metformin as a treatment for type 2 diabetes reduces heart attack and death rates compared with use of insulin alone, according to new research.
Just over 12,000 people took part in the study, which was led by a team at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine.
For just over three years the participants were monitored from the time they were first prescribed insulin.
Professor Craig Currie, who led the study, said: “Since 1991, the rate of insulin use in type 2 diabetes increased more than six-fold in the UK. In more recent years, metformin has also been used alongside insulin as a treatment.
“Previously, our work showed that increased insulin dose is linked with mortality, cancer and heart attacks. Existing studies have also shown that metformin can attenuate the risks associated with insulin.
“In this research we examined insulin dose along with the impact of combining insulin with metformin. We found that there was a considerable reduction in deaths and heart problems when this cheap and common drug was used in conjunction with insulin.”
Researchers found that combining insulin and metformin not only reduced mortality and heart attacks, but there was also no difference in the risk of cancer.
Around 3.9m people live with diabetes in the UK, with more than 90 per cent of those affected having type 2 diabetes.
Professor Currie said: “While this research indicates the potential of using these treatments together, further studies are needed to determine the risks and benefits of insulin in type 2 diabetes and the possible benefits associated with the administration of metformin alongside insulin.”
The findings of the study have just been published in the journal PLOS ONE.