A Potential New Use for Metformin

Metformin may effectively prevent, treat preeclampsia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) One common diabetes drug may soon have a new indication.

A new study from Australia found that metformin may effectively treat and prevent preeclampsia, a leading cause of maternal death worldwide. Metformin is commonly used to treat diabetes in both pregnant and non-pregnant patients. It is considered safe for use during pregnancy. It is marketed under the names Glumetza, Riomet, Glucophage and Fortamet.

Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous condition that only develops during pregnancy. Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious or even fatal complications for both mother and baby. The only treatment for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby.

In preeclampsia, inadequate blood supply to the placenta leads to a buildup of toxins in the blood — causing high blood pressure and potential organ damage, especially in the kidneys. Preeclampsia affects between 5 and 8 percent of all pregnant women.

The condition is what’s known as an endothelial cell (cells that line the blood vessels) disorder. At least two known toxins produced by the placenta are increased in preeclampsia. These toxins damage endothelial cells and cause the disease.

In this study, a team of researchers led by Stephen Tong, PhD, head of the Translational Obstetrics Group at Mercy Hospital for Women In Melbourne, found that metformin decreased the production of the two toxins and helped heal injured blood vessels.

Dr. Tong noted that more research is still needed, however. 

"Metformin appears to be the aspirin of the 21st century, because the drug has been discovered to have unexpected health benefits not only in diabetes, but also in polycystic ovarian disease and recent work has highlighted its anti-cancer properties," said Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Roberto Romero, MD, in a press release.

This study was published Dec. 22 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
December 27, 2015
Last Updated:
December 29, 2015