Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Metformin, a longtime and low-cost drug, was as effective as gastric banding at stabilizing type 2 diabetes, though surgery is more effective for weight loss, according to a new study.
While gastric banding is aimed at reducing weight, metformin is designed for treatment of type 2 diabetes. It has been found, however, to also help reduce weight in patients -- though somewhat inconsistently -- marking an additional use for the drug.
Researchers involved with the BetaFat study, at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles and Kaiser Permanente Southern California, found both methods could be effective for patients, depending on the particular patient.
The clinical study enrolled 88 participants aged 21 to 65 years old with mild to moderate obesity and prediabetes or new-onset type 2 diabetes. Findings were published Wednesday in the journal Diabetes Care and presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Annual Meeting in Berlin.
Half the participants underwent gastric banding, a form of bariatric surgery involving placement of a band around the upper part of the stomach to slow digestion. The rest of the participants received metformin, which is the most common medicine prescribed for people with prediabetes and early type 2 diabetes. Participants' body mass index was between 30 and 40.
People in the gastric banding group lost an average of 23 pounds after two years, compared with 4 pounds for those in the metformin group. Insulin sensitivity increased 45 percent in the band group and 25 percent in the metformin group.
They both had relatively stable function of insulin-producing cells, and small improvements in blood glucose levels. Blood pressure was higher in the metformin group at 128.9 compared with 124.8 in the surgery group. Cholesterol and triglyceride levels also were in the banding group.
The study is among three clinical trials of the Restoring Insulin Secretion study to find ways to reverse or slow the loss of insulin production and release in people at risk for type 2 diabetes or recently diagnosed with the disease. The two other RISE trials examine the effects of a variety of medications in youth and adults.
In a study released in 2012, metformin produced weight loss of 4.6 pounds and a 31 percent reduction in the development of diabetes over an average of 2.8 years of follow-up. Between 1996 and 1999, 3,234 participants from 27 clinics in the United States were enrolled in the Diabetes Prevention Program.
Metformin, which goes by the brand Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Fortamet, Glumetza and Riomet, is prescribed for diabetes treatment along with changes diet, exercise and lifestyle.
Metformin hydrochloride was discovered in 1918. The drug was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1978 because of concerns of drug accumulation and lactic acidosis. But it was found to be less potent than other glucose-lowering biguanides, and was subsequently reintroduced in France in 1957 and the United States in 1995.