FRIDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- If diabetics start the drug metformin early -- within three months of diagnosis -- it appears the drug will remain effective longer, a new study finds.
"This study suggests that to gain full benefit from metformin, patients should start taking it as soon as they find out they have diabetes," lead author Jonathan B. Brown, an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., said in a news release from Kaiser Permanente.
Metformin, a generic drug, is used to treat type 2 diabetes by helping the body control blood-sugar levels. However, most people turn to other medications after a while because metformin stops working, but other drugs can be more expensive and boost the risk for weight gain.
The study, which followed almost 1,800 diabetics for up to five years, found that the drug took longer to fail in people who began taking it within three months of being diagnosed with diabetes.
In them, it failed at a rate of 12 percent a year. For those who began taking metformin a year or two after diagnosis, it failed at a rate of 21.4 percent a year.
"We believe that starting the drug early preserves the body's own ability to control blood sugar, which in turn prevents the long-term complications of diabetes, like heart disease, kidney failure and blindness," study co-author Gregory A. Nichols, an investigator with the Kaiser center, said in the news release. "The American Diabetes Association recommends that patients start taking metformin and make lifestyle changes as soon as they are diagnosed. This study provides more evidence to back up that recommendation."
The finding is published in the March issue of Diabetes Care.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has information on metformin.