Metformin Treatment Reduces the Incidence of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Two-Sample Mendelian Randomized Study

J Clin Med. 2023 Mar 23;12(7):2461. doi: 10.3390/jcm12072461.


Several studies have shown that rheumatologic patients can benefit from metformin, but it remains unclear whether metformin treatment is causally associated with the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) study was conducted to investigate the causal relationship between metformin treatment and the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis. The genome-wide significant (p < 5 × 10-8) single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with metformin use were selected as instrumental variables (IVs). Summary statistics on RA were extracted from a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis. The inverse variance-weighted (IVW) method was used as the determinant of the causal effects of metformin treatment on RA. Cochran's Q was used to detect heterogeneity. Mendelian randomization pleiotropy residual sum and outlier (MR-PRESSO) test and MR-Egger regression were used to detect horizontal pleiotropy. A total of 34 SNPs significantly associated with metformin treatment were obtained. Thirty-two SNPs were selected as IVs after removing two SNPs for being palindromic with intermediate allele frequencies (rs11658063 and rs4930011). The IVW results showed a negative causal association between metformin treatment and RA (OR = 0.0232, 95% CI 1.6046 × 10-3 - 0.3368; p = 0.006). Meanwhile, no heterogeneity or pleiotropy was detected, indicating that the results were reliable. This study indicated a negative causality between metformin treatment and RA, indicating that the treatment of metformin can prevent the pathogenesis of RA.

Keywords: Mendelian randomization study; causal association; metformin; rheumatoid arthritis; two-sample.