Metformin is a drug that is prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes. It works by decreasing the amount of sugar made by the liver and decreasing the amount of sugar absorbed into the body. As a result, metformin can help the body respond better to its own insulin and decrease blood sugar levels. As with any medication, there are potential side effects, such as diarrhea, nausea, and headaches. The medication is available in several forms, including a tablet form, two long-acting forms, and a liquid version.
Metformin (Glucophage®) is a prescription medication that is licensed to treat type 2 diabetes (also known as noninsulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes). Metformin also comes in:
- Three long-acting forms, sold under the brand names of Glucophage XR®, Fortamet®, and Glumetza®
- A liquid version called Riomet®.
(Click Metformin Uses for more information on what metformin is used for, including possible off-label uses.)
Generic metformin is made by numerous manufacturers. Glucophage and Glucophage XR are manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Metformin is part of a class of diabetes medications known as biguanide medications. The drug works in several ways. For example, it decreases the amount of sugar (glucose) made by the liver. It can also decrease the amount of sugar absorbed into the body (from the diet) and can make insulin receptors more sensitive, helping the body respond better to its own insulin. All of these effects cause a decrease in blood sugar levels.
Because the medication does not increase the amount of insulin produced by the body, it is less likely to cause dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), as many other diabetes medications can do (see Alternatives to Metformin).