Widely used diabetes drug linked to birth defects risk—study | Inquirer News

Widely used diabetes drug linked to birth defects risk—study

/ 12:19 PM March 29, 2022

Widely used diabetes drug linked to birth defects risk

An elderly woman gets her blood tested during a drive to provide medical check-ups for hypertension, cholesterol and diabetes at an integrated services post in Banda Aceh on December 15, 2021. AFP FILE PHOTO

One of the world’s most widely prescribed diabetes drugs may be linked to major birth defects in the offspring of male patients who were taking it ahead of the babies being conceived, according to a new study from Denmark released on Monday.

Metformin, among the most common and often initially prescribed treatments for type 2 diabetes, was associated with a 1.4 times greater risk of birth defects in boys whose fathers were taking the drug compared with those born to fathers who were not, researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and Stanford University in the United States found.


In both groups, the mothers had no history of diabetes or hypertension.


The study’s authors, as well as independent experts, pointed to several key limitations of the data published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers did not know whether the fathers took the medication as prescribed, or if they had worse control of their diabetes, which could also be linked to a higher risk of birth defects. The study showed that the risk for babies born to men taking insulin rather than metformin were not increased.

Channa Jayasena, head of andrology at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the work, called the results “thought-provoking but inconclusive”.

“Men with diabetes should not be dissuaded from taking metformin, but this is worth looking at more closely,” he added.

Metformin, available as a generic drug, is a first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes, a growing epidemic worldwide.

It is usually prescribed when diet and physical activity are not enough to control blood sugar levels and typically before more expensive branded diabetes drugs. It works to improve how the body handles insulin. Around 120 million people have been prescribed the drug across the globe.


In the study of 1,116,779 births in Denmark from 1997 to 2016, the researchers found that 5.2% of babies born to men who had been taking metformin had birth defects, particularly genital defects in boys. Among the rest of the population, the rate was 3.3%.

Babies were considered to be exposed to a diabetes drug, including metformin or insulin, if the father had filled at least one prescription during the three months before conception, when the fertilizing sperm were developing.

The researchers said more study was needed, but suggested that men taking metformin consider switching to another treatment when trying to conceive.

“If patients would like to switch to an alternative, they should contact their doctor,” Maarten Wensink, a public health professor at the University of Southern Denmark and a study author, told Reuters, adding that the best treatment for type 2 diabetes remains lifestyle interventions such as dietary changes and weight loss.

“This could be an extra reason to put more priority on paternal health,” he added.


Lockdown cuts off gov’t aid for vendor suffering from diabetes

DOH offers free medicines to diabetics, hypertensives

South Korea bans 31 diabetes drugs over suspected carcinogen substance

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Half of diabetics don’t know they have the disease

TAGS: Diabetes, Health, Metformin

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.