Glucophage

Glucophage lowers blood sugar. If you experience upset stomach, try taking medication with food.

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Pharmacist Bethany Muhlstein, PharmD overviews the uses and common side effects of Glucophage
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Glucophage Overview

Reviewed: August 23, 2012
Updated: 

Glucophage is a prescription medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. Glucophage belongs to a group of drugs called biguanides, which work by helping your body respond better to the insulin it makes naturally, decreasing the amount of sugar your liver makes, and decreasing the amount of sugar your intestines absorb.

This medication comes in tablet form and is taken up to 3 times daily, with meals.

Common side effects of Glucophage include diarrhea, nausea, and upset stomach.

Patient Ratings for Glucophage

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Glucophage Cautionary Labels

precautionsprecautionsprecautionsprecautionsprecautions

Uses of Glucophage

Glucophage is a prescription medication used to treat type 2 diabetes.

This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Manufacturer

Glucophage Drug Class

Glucophage is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Glucophage

Serious side effects have been reported including:

Lactic Acidosis. In rare cases, Glucophage can cause a serious side effect called lactic acidosis. This is caused by a buildup of lactic acid in your blood. This build-up can cause serious damage. Lactic acidosis caused by Glucophage is rare and has occurred mostly in people whose kidneys were not working normally. Lactic acidosis has been reported in about one in 33,000 patients taking Glucophage over the course of a year. Although rare, if lactic acidosis does occur, it can be fatal in up to half the people who develop it.

It is also important for your liver to be working normally when you take Glucophage. Your liver helps remove lactic acid from your blood.

Make sure you tell your doctor before you use Glucophage if you have kidney or liver problems. You should also stop using Glucophage and call your doctor right away if you have signs of lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis is a medical emergency that must be treated in a hospital.

Signs of lactic acidosis:

  • feeling very weak, tired, or uncomfortable
  • unusual muscle pain
  • trouble breathing
  • unusual or unexpected stomach discomfort
  • feeling cold
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • suddenly developing a slow or irregular heartbeat

If your medical condition suddenly changes, stop taking Glucophage and call your doctor right away. This may be a sign of lactic acidosis or another serious side effect.

Common side effects of Glucophage include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • upset stomach

These side effects generally go away after you take the medicine for a while. Taking your medicine with meals can help reduce these side effects. Tell your doctor if the side effects bother you a lot, last for more than a few weeks, come back after they've gone away, or start later in therapy. You may need a lower dose or need to stop taking the medicine for a short period or for good.

About 3 out of every 100 people who take Glucophage have an unpleasant metallic taste when they start taking the medicine. It lasts for a short time.

Glucophage rarely causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). However, hypoglycemia can happen if you do not eat enough, if you drink alcohol, or if you take other medicines to lower blood sugar.

 

Glucophage Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take:

  • beta-blockers
  • cough and cold products containing decongestants
  • calcium channel blockers
  • cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • corticosteroids
  • digoxin (Lanoxin)
  • diuretics such as furosemide (Lasix)
  • estrogens
  • insulins or other medicines for diabetes
  • isoniazid (INH, Nydrazid)
  • morphine
  • niacin (nicotinic acid, Niaspan)
  • nifedipine
  • oral contraceptives
  • oral steroids
  • phenothiazines such as promethazine (Phenergan)
  • phenytoin (Dilantin)
  • procainamide
  • quinidine
  • quinine
  • ranitidine
  • thyroid medicines such as levothyroxine (Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid, Tirosint)
  • triamterene
  • trimethoprim
  • vancomycin

This is not a complete list of Glucophage drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Glucophage Precautions

A small number of people who have taken Glucophage have developed a serious condition called lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis is caused by a buildup of lactic acid in the blood. This happens more often in people with kidney problems. Most people with kidney problems should not take Glucophage. See "Side Effects".

Some conditions increase your chance of getting lactic acidosis, or cause other problems if you take Glucophage. Most of the conditions listed below can increase your chance of getting lactic acidosis.

Do not take Glucophage if you:

  • have kidney problems
  • have liver problems
  • have heart failure that is treated with medicines, such as Lanoxin (digoxin) or Lasix (furosemide)
  • drink a lot of alcohol. This means you binge drink for short periods or drink all the time.
  • are seriously dehydrated (have lost a lot of water from your body)
  • are going to have an x-ray procedure with injection of dyes (contrast agents)
  • are going to have surgery
  • develop a serious condition, such as heart attack, severe infection, or a stroke
  • are 80 years or older and you have NOT had your kidney function tested

Do not drink a lot of alcohol drinks while taking this medication. This means you should not binge drink for short periods, and you should not drink a lot of alcohol on a regular basis. Alcohol can increase the chance of getting lactic acidosis.

Glucophage Food Interactions

Follow dietary (food) recommendations made by your doctor and dietitian which should include a healthy diet. Skipping meals should be avoided as this can cause problems maintaining blood sugar control. There are no specific foods to avoid while using Glucophage.

Inform MD

Before receiving Glucophage, tell your doctor if you:

  • have kidney problems
  • have liver problems
  • have heart failure that is treated with medicines, such as Lanoxin (digoxin) or Lasix (furosemide)
  • drink a lot of alcohol. This means you binge drink for short periods or drink all the time.
  • are seriously dehydrated (have lost a lot of water from your body)
  • are going to have an x-ray procedure with injection of dyes (contrast agents)
  • are going to have surgery
  • develop a serious condition, such as heart attack, severe infection, or a stroke
  • are 80 years or older and you have NOT had your kidney function tested
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding

While taking Glucophage, tell your doctor if you

  • have an illness that causes severe vomiting, diarrhea or fever, or if you drink a much lower amount of liquid than normal. These conditions can lead to severe dehydration (loss of water in your body). You may need to stop taking Glucophage for a short time.
  • plan to have surgery or an x-ray procedure with injection of dye (contrast agent). You may need to stop taking Glucophage for a short time.
  • start to take other medicines or change how you take a medicine. Glucophage can affect how well other drugs work, and some drugs can affect how well Glucophage works. Some medicines may cause high blood sugar.

Glucophage and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Glucophage will harm your unborn baby.

Glucophage and Lactation

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if Glucophage is excreted in human breastmilk or if it will harm your nursing baby.

Glucophage Usage

Glucophage is taken by mouth and is available as a tablet and is taken up to three times daily. Glucophage should be taken at the same time(s) each day.

Your doctor will tell you how much medicine to take and when to take it. You will probably start out with a low dose of the medicine. Your doctor may slowly increase your dose until your blood sugar is better controlled. You should take Glucophage with meals.

Your doctor may have you take other medicines along with Glucophage to control your blood sugar. These medicines may include insulin shots. Taking Glucophage with insulin may help you better control your blood sugar while reducing the insulin dose.

Continue your exercise and diet program and test your blood sugar regularly while taking Glucophage.

Your doctor will monitor your diabetes and may perform blood tests on you from time to time to make sure your kidneys and your liver are functioning normally. There is no evidence that Glucophage causes harm to the liver or kidneys.

Glucophage Dosage

Take Glucophage exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully.

The recommended starting dose of Glucophage is 500 mg twice daily or 850 mg once a day (in people 17 and older), given with meals. The maximum recommended daily dose is 2000 mg in children (10 to 16 years of age) and 2550 mg in adults. The dosage should be increased slowly to avoid side effects.

The maximum total daily dose of Glucophage for people taking insulin is 2500 mg.

Glucophage Overdose

If you take too much Glucophage, call your local Poison Control Center or seek emergency medical attention right away.

Other Requirements

Store Glucophage at room temperature away from excess light and humidity.

Keep this and all medicines out of the reach of children.

Glucophage FDA Warning

WARNINGS

Lactic Acidosis:

Lactic acidosis is a rare, but serious, metabolic complication that can occur due to metformin accumulation during treatment with Glucophage; when it occurs, it is fatal in approximately 50% of cases. Lactic acidosis may also occur in association with a number of pathophysiologic conditions, including diabetes mellitus, and whenever there is significant tissue hypoperfusion and hypoxemia. Lactic acidosis is characterized by elevated blood lactate levels (>5 mmol/ L), decreased blood pH, electrolyte disturbances with an increased anion gap, and an increased lactate/pyruvate ratio. When Glucophage is implicated as the cause of lactic acidosis, Glucophage plasma levels >5 μg/mL are generally found.