Home / Science / Health /  This diabetes drug can reduce total Covid-19 deaths, hospitalisation by half, finds study

Even as Covid-19 continues to take lives in increased number and daily new cases refuse to die down despite several anti-body treatments and measures, a study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota in United States have found a preventive measure to reduce hospitalisation and death due to Covid-19.

The preventive measure entails taking the diabetes drug, metformin, also known as Glucophage, within four days of the start of symptoms. Researchers have said that doing so would reduce the number of hospitalisations and deaths due to Covid-19 by half. 

How does metformin work?

Metformin, a globally available diabetes drug, was used in the 1950s as an anti-viral called "Fluamine." Recently a research conducted in University of Minnesota has proved that people who started showing symptoms of Covid-19 and took this drug within the first four days, did not have to visit the hospital or ran the risk of death due to the virus. 

The study has found that the drug affects the inflammation pathways. To put this in perspective, Covid-19 involves viral inflammation

What the study entailed?

The study, published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared three medications that were considered promising -- fluvoxamine, an antidepressant that had shown strong results in previous studies, ivermectin, the object of much interest, and metformin.

The research team thought the combination of anti-inflammatory plus antiviral action was intriguing enough to test the drug.

"This was really intriguing to us early on when we learned that people who take metformin were catching Covid-19 less and being hospitalised less," said Elaine Lissner, founder of California-based nonprofit Parsemus Foundation.

The study included 1,323 participants most at risk of serious outcomes -- adults over 30 and with body mass index (BMI) over 25 kilogrammes per square metre (kg/m2) -- to get lifesaving results more quickly.

What the study showed?

The researchers noted that metformin, an exceedingly inexpensive drug, if given to high-risk people with Covid right away, can reduce serious outcomes by more than half.

"Metformin is an incredibly common drug, taken by millions of people all over the world. There is no stigma like with an antidepressant, and it is a lot easier to take than the other two," Lissner said.

The US drug regulator FDA guidelines indicate that metformin should not be given to people with advanced kidney disease, and should be taken with food, or in extended-release formulation, to avoid stomach upset, they said.

Side effects are minor and include loose stools. Metformin is also considered safe for use in pregnant women, the researchers added. 

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