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Risk of Anemia With Metformin Use in Type 2 Diabetes: A MASTERMIND Study

  • Donnelly, Louise A.
  • Dennis, John M.
  • Coleman, Ruth L.
  • Sattar, Naveed
  • Hattersley, Andrew T.
  • Holman, Rury R.
  • Pearson, Ewan R.
Published Article
Diabetes Care
American Diabetes Association
Publication Date
Aug 14, 2020
DOI: 10.2337/dc20-1104
PMID: 32801130
PMCID: PMC7510037
PubMed Central


OBJECTIVE To evaluate the association between metformin use and anemia risk in type 2 diabetes, and the time-course for this, in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and real-world population data. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Anemia was defined as a hemoglobin measure of <11 g/dL. In the RCTs A Diabetes Outcome Progression Trial (ADOPT; n = 3,967) and UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS; n = 1,473), logistic regression was used to model anemia risk and nonlinear mixed models for change in hematological parameters. In the observational Genetics of Diabetes Audit and Research in Tayside Scotland (GoDARTS) population ( n = 3,485), discrete-time failure analysis was used to model the effect of cumulative metformin exposure on anemia risk. RESULTS In ADOPT, compared with sulfonylureas, the odds ratio (OR) (95% CI) for anemia was 1.93 (1.10, 3.38) for metformin and 4.18 (2.50, 7.00) for thiazolidinediones. In UKPDS, compared with diet, the OR (95% CI) was 3.40 (1.98, 5.83) for metformin, 0.96 (0.57, 1.62) for sulfonylureas, and 1.08 (0.62, 1.87) for insulin. In ADOPT, hemoglobin and hematocrit dropped after metformin initiation by 6 months, with no further decrease after 3 years. In UKPDS, hemoglobin fell by 3 years in the metformin group compared with other treatments. At years 6 and 9, hemoglobin was reduced in all treatment groups, with no greater difference seen in the metformin group. In GoDARTS, each 1 g/day of metformin use was associated with a 2% higher annual risk of anemia. CONCLUSIONS Metformin use is associated with early risk of anemia in individuals with type 2 diabetes, a finding consistent across two RCTs and replicated in one real-world study. The mechanism for this early fall in hemoglobin is uncertain, but given the time course, is unlikely to be due to vitamin B12 deficiency alone.

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