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Efficacy and Side Effect Profile of Different Formulations of Metformin: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Tarry-Adkins, Jane L.  ORCID logo
Grant, Imogen D. 
Ozanne, Susan E. 
Reynolds, Rebecca M. 
Aiken, Catherine E. 


Abstract: Introduction: Metformin is among the most frequently prescribed drugs worldwide for a variety of indications. Although metformin has several important advantages, for example being easy to store and administer, it is associated with a high incidence of gastrointestinal side effects. Slower-release formulations of metformin may reduce the incidence of side effects while maintaining efficacy; however, there is a lack of systematic evidence available to guide head-to-head comparisons between different metformin formulations. Methods: PubMed, Web of Science, OVID EMBASE, MEDLINE, The Cochrane database and were systematically searched (from inception to 25 January 2021). Trials that randomized adult participants to extended-release formulation of metformin (met-XR), delayed-release (met-DR) or immediate-release metformin (met-IR) were included. Two reviewers independently assessed articles for eligibility and risk-of-bias, with conflicts resolved by a third reviewer. Outcome measures were change in fasting plasma glucose (FPG), glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), body weight, BMI, lipid profile and side effects. Meta-analyses were conducted using random-effects models. Results: Fifteen studies (n = 3765) met eligibility criteria. There was no significant difference between the efficacy of met-IR, met-XR or met-DR in changing FPG (p = 0.93). A non-significant reduction in mean body weight was observed in individuals randomized to met-XR vs. met-IR (− 1.03 kg, 95% CI − 2.12 to 0.05, p = 0.06). Individuals randomized to met-XR vs. met-IR had lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels (− 5.73 mg/dl, 95% CI − 7.91 to − 3.56, p < 0.00001). Gastrointestinal (GI) side effects were markedly reduced in patients randomised to met-DR vs. met-IR (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.26–0.80, p = 0.006). Conclusion: Our results demonstrate equal efficacy of longer-acting formulations (met-XR, met-DR) versus immediate-release metformin formulations in terms of glycaemic control. There were insufficient studies available to compare the efficacy of different metformin formulations outside of diabetes care. However met-XR was associated with reduced serum LDL cholesterol concentrations, while met-DR was strongly associated with reduced GI side effects, which could improve drug compliance.



Original Research, Diabetes, Efficacy, Metformin, Polycystic ovarian syndrome, Side effects

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Diabetes Therapy

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Springer Healthcare
British Heart Foundation (RG/17/12/33167, RG/17/12/33167, RE/18/5/34216)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00014/4, MR/T016701/1, MC_UU_00014/4, MR/T016701/1)
Action Medical Research (GN2788)