Clinical Outcomes of Metformin Use in Populations With Chronic Kidney Disease, Congestive Heart Failure, or Chronic Liver Disease: A Systematic Review

Ann Intern Med. 2017 Feb 7;166(3):191-200. doi: 10.7326/M16-1901. Epub 2017 Jan 3.


Background: Recent changes to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration boxed warning for metformin will increase its use in persons with historical contraindications or precautions. Prescribers must understand the clinical outcomes of metformin use in these populations.

Purpose: To synthesize data addressing outcomes of metformin use in populations with type 2 diabetes and moderate to severe chronic kidney disease (CKD), congestive heart failure (CHF), or chronic liver disease (CLD) with hepatic impairment.

Data sources: MEDLINE (via PubMed) from January 1994 to September 2016, and Cochrane Library, EMBASE, and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts from January 1994 to November 2015.

Study selection: English-language studies that: 1) examined adults with type 2 diabetes and CKD (with estimated glomerular filtration rate less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2), CHF, or CLD with hepatic impairment; 2) compared diabetes regimens that included metformin with those that did not; and 3) reported all-cause mortality, major adverse cardiovascular events, and other outcomes of interest.

Data extraction: 2 reviewers abstracted data and independently rated study quality and strength of evidence.

Data synthesis: On the basis of quantitative and qualitative syntheses involving 17 observational studies, metformin use is associated with reduced all-cause mortality in patients with CKD, CHF, or CLD with hepatic impairment, and with fewer heart failure readmissions in patients with CKD or CHF.

Limitations: Strength of evidence was low, and data on multiple outcomes of interest were sparse. Available studies were observational and varied in follow-up duration.

Conclusion: Metformin use in patients with moderate CKD, CHF, or CLD with hepatic impairment is associated with improvements in key clinical outcomes. Our findings support the recent changes in metformin labeling.

Primary funding source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (PROSPERO: CRD42016027708).

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death
  • Chronic Disease
  • Contraindications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Heart Failure / complications*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Liver Diseases / complications*
  • Metformin / adverse effects
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / complications*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin