Metformin is an oral antihyperglycemic medication used to manage blood sugar levels in cases of type 2 diabetes. Introduced to the U.S. market in 1995, it was the ninth most dispensed medication in the U.S. in 2010, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Metformin overview

Drug class: Metformin belongs to a class of drugs known as biguanides. Biguanides have been found to decrease the body's resistance to insulin, increase muscle cells' ability to absorb sugar, as well as decrease sugar production in the liver.

Dosage: Metformin is taken orally and comes as a liquid, a tablet and an extended-release (long-acting) table. Follow your physician's instructions for dosage. Metformin should be taken with meals unless otherwise directed by your doctor. Do not crush or break time-release forms of metformin. Take a missed dose as soon as possible, but skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next one. Do not double up dosages to make up for a missed dose.

Brand names: Metformin is sold under the following brand names:

  • Fortamet
  • Glucophage
  • Glucophage XR
  • Glumetza
  • Riomet

Side effects: Loss of appetite, nausea and/or diarrhea are common side effects. In rare cases metformin may cause lactic acidosis, a severe condition requiring immediate medical attention.

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