Diabetes drug metformin could have unexpected benefits: study

A new study by UK-based researchers has found that the widely-prescribed diabetes drug metformin can actually help patients live longer than non-diabetics.

The drug has anti-cancer and anti-cardiovascular disease benefits and can offer surprising health benefits to non-diabetics also, indicates the study involving over 180,000 people.

"What we found was illuminating. Patients treated with metformin had a small but statistically significant improvement in survival compared with non-diabetics," said Craig Currie, professor at Cardiff University's school of medicine.

"Those treated with another common diabetes drug called sulphonylurea had a consistently reduced survival rate compared with non-diabetic patients," he said, adding that this was true even without any clever statistical manipulation.

The life expectancy of these cohorts was also compared against non-diabetics who were matched based on criteria that included age, gender, same general practice, smoking status and clinical status.

This, however, does not mean that people with type 2 diabetes get off scot-free.

"Their disease will progress and they will be typically switched to more aggressive treatments. People lose on average around eight years from their life expectancy after developing diabetes," Currie noted.

The best way to avoid the condition altogether is by keeping moderately lean and taking some regular light exercise, he advised.

The findings indicate that metformin could offer prognostic and prophylactic benefits to people without diabetes, the study, published in a leading journal Diabetes, concluded.