Long term treatment with metformin in patients with type 2 diabetes and risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency: randomised placebo controlled trial

Jolien de Jager, Adriaan Kooy, Philippe Lehert, Michiel G Wulffelé, Jan van der Kolk, Daniël Bets, Joop Verburg, Ab J M Donker, Coen D A Stehouwer
BMJ: British Medical Journal 2010 May 20, 340: c2181

OBJECTIVES: To study the effects of metformin on the incidence of vitamin B-12 deficiency (<150 pmol/l), low concentrations of vitamin B-12 (150-220 pmol/l), and folate and homocysteine concentrations in patients with type 2 diabetes receiving treatment with insulin.

DESIGN: Multicentre randomised placebo controlled trial.

SETTING: Outpatient clinics of three non-academic hospitals in the Netherlands.

PARTICIPANTS: 390 patients with type 2 diabetes receiving treatment with insulin.

INTERVENTION: 850 mg metformin or placebo three times a day for 4.3 years.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Percentage change in vitamin B-12, folate, and homocysteine concentrations from baseline at 4, 17, 30, 43, and 52 months.

RESULTS: Compared with placebo, metformin treatment was associated with a mean decrease in vitamin B-12 concentration of -19% (95% confidence interval -24% to -14%; P<0.001) and in folate concentration of -5% (95% CI -10% to -0.4%; P=0.033), and an increase in homocysteine concentration of 5% (95% CI -1% to 11%; P=0.091). After adjustment for body mass index and smoking, no significant effect of metformin on folate concentrations was found. The absolute risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency (<150 pmol/l) at study end was 7.2 percentage points higher in the metformin group than in the placebo group (95% CI 2.3 to 12.1; P=0.004), with a number needed to harm of 13.8 per 4.3 years (95% CI 43.5 to 8.3). The absolute risk of low vitamin B-12 concentration (150-220 pmol/l) at study end was 11.2 percentage points higher in the metformin group (95% CI 4.6 to 17.9; P=0.001), with a number needed to harm of 8.9 per 4.3 years (95% CI 21.7 to 5.6). Patients with vitamin B-12 deficiency at study end had a mean homocysteine level of 23.7 micromol/l (95% CI 18.8 to 30.0 micromol/l), compared with a mean homocysteine level of 18.1 micromol/l (95% CI 16.7 to 19.6 micromol/l; P=0.003) for patients with a low vitamin B-12 concentration and 14.9 micromol/l (95% CI 14.3 to 15.5 micromol/l; P<0.001 compared with vitamin B-12 deficiency; P=0.005 compared with low vitamin B-12) for patients with a normal vitamin B-12 concentration (>220 pmol/l).

CONCLUSIONS: Long term treatment with metformin increases the risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency, which results in raised homocysteine concentrations. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is preventable; therefore, our findings suggest that regular measurement of vitamin B-12 concentrations during long term metformin treatment should be strongly considered. Trial registration NCT00375388.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"