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Comparison of long-term effects of metformin on longevity between people with type 2 diabetes and matched non-diabetic controls

Stevenson-Hoare, Joshua, Leonenko, Ganna ORCID: and Escott-Price, Valentina ORCID: 2023. Comparison of long-term effects of metformin on longevity between people with type 2 diabetes and matched non-diabetic controls. BMC Public Health 23 , 804. 10.1186/s12889-023-15764-y

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Background: Metformin, a medication for type 2 diabetes, has been linked to many non-diabetes health benefits including increasing healthy lifespan. Previous work has only examined the benefits of metformin over periods of less than ten years, which may not be long enough to capture the true effect of this medication on longevity. Methods: We searched medical records for Wales, UK, using the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage dataset for type 2 diabetes patients treated with metformin (N = 129,140) and sulphonylurea (N = 68,563). Non-diabetic controls were matched on sex, age, smoking, and history of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Survival analysis was performed to examine survival time after first treatment, using a range of simulated study periods. Findings: Using the full twenty-year period, we found that type 2 diabetes patients treated with metformin had shorter survival time than matched controls, as did sulphonylurea patients. Metformin patients had better survival than sulphonylurea patients, controlling for age. Within the first three years, metformin therapy showed a benefit over matched controls, but this reversed after five years of treatment. Interpretation: While metformin does appear to confer benefits to longevity in the short term, these initial benefits are outweighed by the effects of type 2 diabetes when patients are observed over a period of up to twenty years. Longer study periods are therefore recommended for studying longevity and healthy lifespan. Evidence before this study: Work examining the non-diabetes outcomes of metformin therapy has suggested that there metformin has a beneficial effect on longevity and healthy lifespan. Both clinical trials and observational studies broadly support this hypothesis, but tend to be limited in the length of time over which they can study patients or participants. Added value of this study: By using medical records we are able to study individuals with Type 2 diabetes over a period of two decades. We are also able to account for the effects of cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, deprivation, and smoking on longevity and survival time following treatment. Implications of all the available evidence: We confirm that there is an initial benefit to longevity of metformin therapy, but this benefit does not outweigh the negative effect on longevity of diabetes. Therefore, we suggest that longer study periods are required for inference to be made about longevity in future research.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:, Type: open-access
Publisher: BioMed Central
Funders: MRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 May 2023
Date of Acceptance: 26 April 2023
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2023 09:16

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