A ‘dirt cheap’ diabetes medication could be the answer to effectively treating coronavirus, researchers believe.
Metformin, sold as Glucophage, costs around 3p a pill, with some doctors in China’s Wuhan, where the pandemic started, hailing it a ‘wonder drug’ after studies show it reduces the body’s inflammatory response.
Inflammation is one of the key causes of death for those with the killer bug, with the drug, given to type 2 diabetics since the 1950s, potentially crucial while a vaccine is developed.
Earlier this month, Wuhan experts revealed the death rate among virus patients taking the medication for diabetes was far lower than those not.
The study involved analysing the data of 104 patients on metformin who had been hospitalised with the virus between January and March, and was compared to the records of 179 others with the same severity of illness.
Just three patients on metformin died compared to 22 not on the drug, with results mirroring a similar study undertaken by the University of Minnesota in the US.
Metformin is already being used by the NHS and is also being trialled as a treatment for heart disease and breast cancer.
Suzy Birkett was given the drug as part of a trial at the private Care Oncology Clinic in London and believes it effectively combated her breast cancer.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, she said: “It’s a very powerful treatment but it’s been slow to catch on.
“Who’s going to pay for big trials for regulatory approval when there is no profit at the end? Metformin is dirt cheap.”
However, researchers also believe combining Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine – granted emergency approval by America the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use by people who are critically ill in hospital with Covid-19 -could prove deadly when combined with metformin.
The two drugs are usually used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases, and which have shown promising outcomes in helping to treat certain cancers.
But a study by Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Anirban Maitra resulted in between 30% and 40% of mice dying when the medication was combined with metformin, reports Diabetes.co.uk.
No vaccine has yet been approved for commercial use against Covid-19, but over a dozen vaccines from more than 100 candidates globally are being tested in humans.
Most recently, China’s military has received the greenlight to use a vaccine candidate developed by its research unit and CanSino Biologics after clinical trials proved it was safe and showed some efficacy, the company said on Monday.