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COVID-19 Death Risk in Women Reduced with Metformin

An overall COVID-19 mortality rate of more than 5% for those admitted to a hospital highlights the urgent need for treatments.

A recent study conducted at the University of Minnesota Medical School in collaboration with the UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) has found that metformin was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death in women with the corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The study is one of the largest observational studies of COVID-19 patients in the world to date.

Type 2 diabetes has been identified as a risk factor for a more severe illness in patients with a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Metformin, which is an established, generic medication that manages levels of blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes, has cytokine-reducing and sex-specific immunomodulatory effects. The therapy has been observed to reduce inflammation proteins that appear to worsen COVID-19.

The study, a retrospective cohort analysis that was based on de-identified patient data from the UNH, was published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity. Investigators analyzed 6,000 participants with either obesity or type 2 diabetes and were hospitalized with COVID-19. The study assessed if metformin use was associated with a decrease in mortality.

Findings from the study identified that women with either diabetes or obesity who were hospitalized due to an infection with COVID-19 and had recently filled a prescription of metformin for 90 days, had a reduced likelihood of 21% to 24% of mortality in comparison to women with similar illness who were not taking the medication.

"Observational studies like this cannot be conclusive but contribute to growing bodies of evidence. Seeing a bigger association with protection in women over men may point towards inflammation reduction as a key way that metformin reduces risk from COVID-19. However, more research is needed," Carolyn Bramante, a principal investigator on the study said. "A large database covering different geographic areas is rarely available. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to do this research alongside UnitedHealth Group."

The findings from the study lends insight for new research that is aiming to fight against COVID-19. The investigators have submitted an investigational new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration and plans to begin a pilot trial this month.