Study: Metformin useless in improving beta cell dysfunction in childhood diabetes

Another study shows yet another proof that pharmaceutical drugs are ineffective in addressing certain health conditions, particularly diabetes drugs. In a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, metformin and insulin failed to stop the decline of insulin production in newly diagnosed children with Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers continue to search for ways to prevent beta cell dysfunction and reduce insulin resistance. In the study, researchers from Yale University assessed how effective insulin and metformin are in improving beta cell dysfunction in childhood diabetes.

Metformin is the standard treatment in Type 2 diabetes. It is believed to help reduce blood sugar levels, while insulin may be used by people who find it difficult to control their blood sugar through diet, lifestyle changes, and other medicines.

For the study, the research team recruited 91 overweight or obese children between 10 and 19 years old who either had Type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. The participants received either injections of glargine insulin for three months followed by metformin for another nine months, or metformin for one year. Throughout the 15-month study period, the researchers monitored the blood sugar levels and beta cell function of the participants.

Results of the study revealed that neither insulin followed by metformin, nor metformin alone was effective in treating Type 2 diabetes. Neither of the treatments prevented or even slowed the progression of Type 2 diabetes. In addition, beta cell dysfunction continued to deteriorate despite the treatments. The research team believed that one of the reasons why the treatments were ineffective was because Type 2 diabetes in younger people is particularly aggressive. (Related: Taking metformin and insulin in conjunction raises mortality risk for diabetes patients.)

More evidence on the ineffectiveness of metformin

In a more recent study published in the journal Nature, the use of metformin among obese teenagers was found to be ineffective in the long run. Researchers from the St. Antonius Hospital in Nieuwegein, the Netherlands evaluated the sustained effects of long-term use of metformin in obese teenagers.

For the study, they recruited 51 young people who were obese or had developed insulin resistance. Thirty-one participants were given metformin, while the remaining 20 participants were not given the drug. Earlier studies have linked metformin to short-term weight loss in teenagers.

Based on the study results, participants who received metformin initially experienced improvements in their body mass index (BMI) and insulin resistance. However, the changes were not retained after three years of metformin use. According to the researchers, there is no evidence for sustained effect after long-term use of metformin in teenagers. They also said that most of the studies conducted that examined the effectiveness of metformin are limited to a follow-up period of six months only.

“Only a few studies have been performed with a longer follow-up period with a maximum up to 24 months. Consequently, it is unclear whether prolonged metformin treatment in adolescents will result in long-lasting positive effects on weight,” explained the researchers.

The findings also contradict studies in non-diabetic adults where metformin resulted in weight loss. They said that this could be due to limited compliance and/or insufficient dose.

The researcher team concluded that metformin use does not cause long-lasting effects on improving diabetes in children or adolescents.

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