Is Metformin a Perfect Drug? Updates in Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics

Curr Pharm Des. 2017;23(17):2532-2550. doi: 10.2174/1381612822666161201152941.


Metformin, a synthetic biguanide, is currently one of the most frequently recommended medications for type 2 diabetes treatment around the world. This review presents the latest discoveries in the pharmacokinetics of metformin, especially the role of transporters (e.g. Organic Cation Transporters OCTs, Multidrug and Toxin Extrusion transporters MATE) in oral absorption, distribution, elimination and biochemical effects of metformin in humans. We also review the associations between genetic variations of metformin transporters, their pharmacokinetics and drug efficacy or drug responses. In the second part of this paper, we highlight the current knowledge on novel metformin actions including favourable effects on lipid profile (e.g. decreasing plasma triglycerides (TG) and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels) and the cardiovascular system (e.g. decline in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and vasoprotective effects). Furthermore, we provide an up-to-date overview of multidirectional activities of metformin, including the effects on coagulation and fibrinolysis, polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as the anti-ageing and antiinflammatory properties. Over the past two decades, metformin's antineoplastic properties have been drawing increasing attention of scientists; herein, we outline the state-of-the-art discoveries concerning metformin use in the field of oncology. Finally, we review the newly synthesized derivatives and pro-drugs of metformin and other biguanides.

Keywords: Biguanides; coagulation; glycaemia; metformin; pharmacokinetics; pro-drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Metformin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Metformin / pharmacology*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin