Diabetes drug may decrease Covid-19 death risk in women


A recent study found an association between metformin and a significantly reduced mortality risk in women with type 2 diabetes or obesity who were hospitalized with Covid-19.
The results of the recent investigation into metformin use, obesity, diabetes risk, and Covid-19 mortality appear in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.
In the week ending November 28, 2020, the cumulative Covid-19 hospitalization rate in the United States reached a new peak.
The reported mortality rate due to pneumonia, influenza, and Covid-19 was 12.8%, though the receipt of additional data is likely to increase this figure.
People with certain medical conditions, including obesity and type 2 diabetes, have an increased risk of severe Covid-19, and may require hospitalization, intensive care, or mechanical ventilation. The risk of death from the illness is also higher for these groups.
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Visceral fat accumulating around organs may lead to insulin resistance, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile, visceral fat cells secrete inflammatory substances, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-á), and D-dimer, which may be associated with severe Covid-19.
People with type 2 diabetes also have increased levels of TNF-á, which contributes to insulin resistance. In addition, the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 is present in lower levels in people with obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Metformin, a safe, effective, relatively inexpensive drug, elevates anti-inflammatory IL-10 levels while decreasing the inflammatory markers TNF-á and IL-6 in people with or without diabetes.
Due to metformin’s anti-inflammatory effects and early reports of decreased Covid-19 mortality rates in people taking the drug, researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School, in Minneapolis, and UnitedHealth Group (UHG), in Miami, FL, decided to investigate whether metformin decreased Covid-19 death risk — and whether any reduction would be sex-specific. They refer, in their study paper, to previous findings that metformin reduced inflammation to a greater extent in women than in men. “While effective therapies to mitigate the harm of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being developed, it is important that we also look to and evaluate commonly used medications with good safety profiles for their potential to combat the virus,” stated Dr. Deneen Vojta, co-senior study author.

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