Metformin could help reduce mortality rates among women with type 2 diabetes who are admitted to hospital with COVID-19, researchers have said.
The drug is commonly given to people with type 2 diabetes who have been unable to control their condition with diet and exercise alone.
The medication works by reducing the amount of sugar the liver releases into the blood and it also helps the body to respond better to insulin.
A team from the University of Minnesota wanted to investigate whether the drug could aid people who become seriously ill with coronavirus.
Using a health database the researchers were able to identify more than 6,000 who were either obese or had type 2 diabetes. Of that number, 2,000 had been taking metformin for their diabetes.
Metformin reduced COVID-19 death risks by 21 per cent to 24 per cent among the females who had become infected with the virus and had already been taking metformin.
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Dr Christopher Tignanelli, a lead author of the study and a critical care physician, said: “If we can understand the difference between men and women that really drove this that gives us a key treatment avenue that we can really go after.”
Having collected the number of deaths within the group, the researchers concluded: “Metformin was significantly associated with reduced mortality in women with obesity or type 2 diabetes in observational analyses of claims data from individuals hospitalised with COVID-19.
“This sex-specific finding is consistent with metformin reducing TNF-alpha in females over males, and suggests that metformin conveys protection in COVID-19 through TNF-alpha effects. Prospective studies are needed to understand mechanism and causality.”