Background: Sulfonylurea drugs have been the only oral therapy available for patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) in the United States. Recently, however, metformin has been approved for the treatment of NIDDM.
Methods: We performed two large, randomized, parallel-group, double-blind, controlled studies in which metformin or another treatment was given for 29 weeks to moderately obese patients with NIDDM whose diabetes was inadequately controlled by diet (protocol 1: metformin vs. placebo; 289 patients), or diet plus glyburide (protocol 2: metformin and glyburide vs. metformin vs. glyburide; 632 patients). To determine efficacy we measured plasma glucose (while the patients were fasting and after the oral administration of glucose), lactate, lipids, insulin, and glycosylated hemoglobin before, during, and at the end of the study.
Results: In protocol 1, at the end of the study the 143 patients in the metformin group, as compared with the 146 patients in the placebo group, had lower mean (+/- SE) fasting plasma glucose concentrations (189 +/- 5 vs. 244 +/- 6 mg per deciliter [10.6 +/- 0.3 vs. 13.7 +/- 0.3 mmol per liter], P < 0.001) and glycosylated hemoglobin values (7.1 +/- 0.1 percent vs. 8.6 +/- 0.2 percent, P < 0.001). In protocol 2, the 213 patients given metformin and glyburide, as compared with the 210 patients treated with glyburide alone, had lower mean fasting plasma glucose concentrations (187 +/- 4 vs. 261 +/- 4 mg per deciliter [10.5 +/- 0.2 vs. 14.6 +/- 0.2 mmol per liter], P < 0.001) and glycosylated hemoglobin values (7.1 +/- 0.1 percent vs. 8.7 +/- 0.1 percent, P < 0.001). The effect of metformin alone was similar to that of glyburide alone. Eighteen percent of the patients given metformin and glyburide had symptoms compatible with hypoglycemia, as compared with 3 percent in the glyburide group and 2 percent in the metformin group. In both protocols the patients given metformin had statistically significant decreases in plasma total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, whereas the values in the respective control groups did not change. There were no significant changes in fasting plasma lactate concentrations in any of the groups.
Conclusions: Metformin monotherapy and combination therapy with metformin and sulfonylurea are well tolerated and improve glycemic control and lipid concentrations in patients with NIDDM whose diabetes is poorly controlled with diet or sulfonylurea therapy alone.