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Concept: Phenformin


Hyperglycemia during corticosteroid and asparaginase therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a significant side effect that is usually treated with insulin. Metformin is an oral antidiabetic biguanide that may cause metabolic acidosis and liver enzyme abnormalities of possible concern in patients receiving chemotherapy.

Concepts: Anti-diabetic drug, Buformin, Glycogen, Phenformin, Diabetes mellitus, Anti-diabetic drugs, Metformin, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia


Abstract Biguanides can function as oral antihyperglycemic drugs. They were used for diabetes mellitus or prediabetes treatment over the last nine decades, but they lost their popularity in 1970s because of phenformin and regained with metformin. For metformin, the most common side effects are diarrhea and dyspepsia, occurring in up to 30% of patients. The most important and serious side effect is lactic acidosis. Phenformin was removed from the markets before 1970, because it caused lactic acidosis in 40-65 patients in 100,000 patient-years. Metformin causes lactate accumulation only in patients who have hepatic failure, renal failure or in patients who attempt suicide with high dosage of drugs. In this report, we present five patients who used high doses of metformin for suicide attempt.

Concepts: Diabetes mellitus type 2, Suicide, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus, Lactic acidosis, Metformin, Anti-diabetic drug, Phenformin


Metformin (N,N-dimethylbiguanide), buformin (1-butylbiguanide) and phenformin (1-phenethylbiguanide) are anti-diabetic biguanide drugs, expected to having anti-cancer effect. The mechanism of anti-cancer effect by these drugs is not completely understood. In this study, we demonstrated that these drugs dramatically enhanced oxidative DNA damage under oxidative condition. Metformin, buformin and phenformin enhanced generation of 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-oxodG) in isolated DNA reacted with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and Cu(II), although these drugs did not form 8-oxodG in the absence of H2O2 or Cu(II). An electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) study, utilizing alpha-(4-pyridyl-1-oxide)-N-tert-butylnitrone and 3,3,5,5-tetramethyl-1-pyrroline-N-oxide as spin trapping agents, showed that nitrogen-centered radicals were generated from biguanides in the presence of Cu(II) and H2O2, and that these radicals were decreased by the addition of DNA. These results suggest that biguanides enhance Cu(II)/H2O2 -mediated 8-oxodG generation via nitrogen-centered radical formation. The enhancing effect on oxidative DNA damage may play a role on anti-cancer activity.

Concepts: Buformin, Oxidative stress, Hydrogen peroxide, Anti-diabetic drug, Oxygen, Phenformin, Biguanide, Metformin


The biguanides are a family of drugs with diverse clinical applications. Metformin, a widely used anti-hyperglycemic biguanide, suppresses mitochondrial respiration by inhibiting respiratory complex I. Phenformin, a related anti-hyperglycemic biguanide, also inhibits respiration, but proguanil, which is widely used for the prevention of malaria, does not. The molecular structures of phenformin and proguanil are closely related and both inhibit isolated complex I. Proguanil does not inhibit respiration in cells and mitochondria because it is unable to access complex I. The molecular features that determine which biguanides accumulate in mitochondria, enabling them to inhibit complex I in vivo, are not known.

Concepts: Atovaquone, Inhibitor, Oxygen, Guanidines, Biguanide, Phenformin, Metformin, Cellular respiration


During the last decade, the burst of interest is observed to antidiabetic biguanide metformin as candidate drug for cancer chemoprevention. The analysis of the available data have shown that the efficacy of cancer preventive effect of metformin (MF) and another biguanides, buformin (BF) and phenformin (PF), has been studied in relation to total tumor incidence and to 17 target organs, in 21 various strains of mice, 4 strains of rats and 1 strain of hamsters (inbred, outbred, transgenic, mutant), spontaneous (non- exposed to any carcinogenic agent) or induced by 16 chemical carcinogens of different classes (polycycIic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitroso compounds, estrogen, etc.), direct or indirect (need metabolic transformation into proximal carcinogen), by total body X-rays and γ- irradiation, viruses, genetic modifications or special high fat diet, using one stage and two-stage protocols of carcinogenesis, 5 routes of the administration of antidiabetic biguanides (oral gavage, intraperitoneal or subcutaneous injections, with drinking water or with diet) in a wide ranks of doses and treatment regimens. In the majority of cases (86%) the treatment with biguanides leads to inhibition of carcinogenesis. In 14% of the cases inhibitory effect of the drugs was not observed. Very important that there was no any case of stimulation of carcinogenesis by antidiabetic biguanides. It was conclude that there is sufficient experimental evidence of anti-carcinogenic effect of antidiabetic biguanides.

Concepts: Biguanide, Phenformin, Nitrosamine, Metformin, Cancer, Oncology, Carcinogen, Benzene


Tolerance seriously impedes the application of morphine in clinical medicine. Thus, it is necessary to investigate the exact mechanisms and efficient treatment. Microglial activation and neuroinflammation in the spinal cord are thought to play pivotal roles on the genesis and maintaining of morphine tolerance. Activation of adenosine monophosphate-activated kinase (AMPK) has been associated with the inhibition of inflammatory nociception. Metformin, a biguanide class of antidiabetic drugs and activator of AMPK, has a potential anti-inflammatory effect. The present study evaluated the effects and potential mechanisms of metformin in inhibiting microglial activation and alleviating the antinociceptive tolerance of morphine.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Effectiveness, Pioglitazone, Anti-diabetic drugs, Buformin, Anti-diabetic drug, Phenformin, Metformin


The objective of this study was to determine whether treatment with metformin in patients with renal impairment is associated with a higher risk of lactic acidosis or elevated lactate concentrations compared with users of a noninsulin antidiabetic drug (NIAD) who had never used metformin.RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: A cohort of 223,968 metformin users and 34,571 diabetic patients who had never used metformin were identified from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD).The primary outcome was defined as either a CPRD READ code of lactic acidosis or a record of a plasma lactate concentration >5 mmol/L. The associations between renal impairment, dose of metformin, and the risk of lactic acidosis or elevated lactate concentrations were determined with time-dependent Cox models and expressed as hazard ratios (HRs).RESULTS: The crude incidence of lactic acidosis or elevated lactate concentrations in current metformin users was 7.4 per 100,000 person-years (vs. 2.2 per 100,000 person-years in nonusers). Compared with nonusers, risk of lactic acidosis or elevated lactate concentrations in current metformin users was significantly associated with a renal function <60 mL/min/1.73 m(2) (adjusted HR 6.37 [95% CI 1.48-27.5]). The increased risk among patients with impaired renal function was further increased in users of ≥730 g of metformin in the preceding year (adjusted HR 11.8 [95% CI 2.27-61.5]) and in users of a recent high daily dose (>2 g) of metformin (adjusted HR 13.0 [95% CI 2.36-72.0]).CONCLUSIONS: Our study is consistent with current recommendations that the renal function of metformin users should be adequately monitored and that the dose of metformin should be adjusted, if necessary, if renal function falls below 60 mL/min/1.73 m(2).

Concepts: Phenformin, Nephrology, Clinical trial, Metformin, Anti-diabetic drug, Lactic acidosis, Cohort study, Renal failure


This review mainly focuses on metformin, and considers oral antidiabetic therapy in kidney transplant patients and the potential benefits and risks of antidiabetic agents other than metformin in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). In view of the debate concerning lactic acidosis associated with metformin, this review tries to solve a paradox: metformin should be prescribed more widely because of its beneficial effects, but also less widely because of the increasing prevalence of contraindications to metformin, such as reduced renal function. Lactic acidosis appears either as part of a number of clinical syndromes (i.e., unrelated to metformin), induced by metformin (involving an analysis of the drug’s pharmacokinetics and mechanisms of action), or associated with metformin (a more complex situation, as lactic acidosis in a metformin-treated patient is not necessarily accompanied by metformin accumulation, nor does metformin accumulation necessarily lead to lactic acidosis). A critical analysis of guidelines and literature data on metformin therapy in patients with CKD is presented. Following the present focus on metformin, new paradoxical issues can be drawn up, in particular: (i) metformin is rarely the sole cause of lactic acidosis; (ii) lactic acidosis in patients receiving metformin therapy is erroneously still considered a single medical entity, as several different scenarios can be defined, with contrasting prognoses. The prognosis for severe lactic acidosis seems even better in metformin-treated patients than in non-metformin users.Kidney International advance online publication, 5 March 2014; doi:10.1038/ki.2014.19.

Concepts: Phenformin, Kidney transplantation, Metformin, Lactic acidosis, Renal failure, Kidney, Nephrology, Chronic kidney disease


Metformin associated lactic acidosis (MALA) is a well-known serious side effect of biguanides. However, the best treatment strategy remains a matter of debate. In the last 14 years, we observed a significant increase in hospitalizations for MALA to our Center. We report the outcomes of our clinical and therapeutic approach.

Concepts: Game theory, Hospital, Evaluation methods, Phenformin, Metformin, Metabolic acidosis, Lactic acidosis


It was hypothesized that the biguanides metformin and phenformin, which are anti-hyperglycemic drugs used for diabetes mellitus, would have therapeutic effects in an in vitro model of Graves' orbitopathy (GO). Because adipogenesis, hyaluronan production, and inflammation are considered important in the pathogenesis of GO, this study aimed to determine the therapeutic effects and underlying mechanisms of biguanides on these parameters.

Concepts: Phenformin, Metformin, Diabetes mellitus, Anti-diabetic drug, Obesity, Diabetes mellitus type 2