Metformin is an established, generic medication for managing blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
It also reduces inflammation proteins like TNF-alpha that appear to make COVID-19 worse.
In a recent study at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere, researchers found that metformin was linked to strongly reduced COVID-19 death risks in women.
The study is published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity. One author is Carolyn Bramante, MD, MPH.
In the study, the team analyzed about 6,000 people with type 2 diabetes or obesity who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and assessed whether or not metformin use was linked to decreased mortality.
They found that women with diabetes or obesity, who were hospitalized for COVID-19 disease and who had filled a 90-day metformin prescription before hospitalization, had a 21% to 24% lower death risk compared to similar women not taking the medication.
There was no strong reduction in mortality among men.
The team says seeing a bigger association with protection in women over men may point towards inflammation reduction as a key way that metformin reduces risk from COVID-19.
While effective therapies to mitigate the harm of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being developed, it is important that researchers also look to, and evaluate commonly used medications with good safety profiles for their potential to combat the virus.
The results provide new directions for research against COVID-19.
The researchers submitted an investigational new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration for use of metformin for COVID-19 treatment and prevention.
The FDA approved this application. The team will start a new study and will lead to a larger trial that is fully powered for important clinical outcomes.
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