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U of M Medical School seeks volunteers for COVID clinical trial on metformin treatment

The University of Minnesota Medical School is studying the effectiveness of metformin, commonly used for type 2 diabetes, as a COVID-19 treatment.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School are studying if a drug commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes could reduce hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. 

They recently launched the clinical trial and are now seeking volunteers. 

The randomized clinical trial will look at metformin, a generic medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, after U researchers identified in computer modeling and observational studies that taking metformin may decrease the likelihood of death or hospitalization from COVID-19. 

Last year, the U of M Medical School and UnitedHealthGroup conducted one of the world's largest observational studies of COVID-19 patients and found that metformin was associated with significantly reducing COVID-19 death risks in women. 

"We think that's how the medication might work by lowering the inflammatory response early on before it's too far in the disease process," said Dr. Carolyn Bramante, an internist and pediatrician with the U of M Medical School and M Health Fairview. 

Dr. Bramante is the lead researcher for the clinical trial. 

Credit: KARE 11
Dr. Carolyn Bramante, an internist and pediatrician with the U of M Medical School and M Health Fairview.

"It has been effective in a test tube but all these sorts of data are suggestions of effect but they all have limitations. So the way to know if something really works in real life is to do a prospective, randomized trial and we're blinded to whether or not people get metformin or placebo," Dr. Bramante explained. 

The outpatient trial focuses on those recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Within three days of testing positive, volunteers will be given either metformin or a placebo to take two times a day for two weeks. Volunteers will track their symptoms and after the 14 days are up, complete a survey. 

It will be the first randomized clinical trial for COVID-19 in the world to include pregnant people. 

"I think we all are interested to know if some early outpatient treatment will prevent severe symptoms, severe disease, and also PACS — post-acute sequelae of COVID —  so the long haul COVID which unfortunately affects about 15-20% of individuals even if they only had a mild case of COVID. So hopefully we can find a safe drug that can dampen that infectious response early on," Dr. Bramante said. 

Dr. Bramante said it's also important to know which medications do not work. In the near future, the clinical trial plans to expand to include two other promising drugs called fluvoxamine and ivermectin. 

Even as more people get the vaccine, the variants have made some vaccines less effective. 

"In theory, the way that the virus is becoming, can evade the vaccines, wouldn't happen with medications like this that work inside the cell but we just need to understand a whole range of treatment options that do or don't work against COVID," Dr. Bramante said. 

There are seven clinical trial sites across the nation including M Health Fairview and Hennepin Healthcare. 

To find out more information or to enroll, visit here. Volunteers must enroll within three days of testing positive for COVID-19.