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U of M study finds diabetes medication can lower odds of COVID hospitalization, death

A trial led by researchers with the University of Minnesota Medical School found metformin could reduce the likelihood of severe COVID outcomes.

MINNEAPOLIS — A new study from the University of Minnesota Medical School and School of Public Health says a commonly prescribed diabetes medication could help lower the odds of the most serious outcomes of COVID-19.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, determined that metformin can help reduce the likelihood of ER and emergency visits, hospitalizations or death from COVID by more than 40%. If prescribed in the early stages of COVID symptoms, those odds are reduced by more than 50%, according to the U of M.

More than 1,300 people were studied in the trial, including patients who were vaccinated against COVID and unvaccinated patients, though a majority of the participants had received a COVID-vaccine.

“We are pleased to contribute to the body of knowledge around COVID-19 therapies in general, with treatments that are widely available,” Dr. Carolyn Bramante, principal investigator of the study and assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the U of M Medical School, said in a statement. “Our trial suggests that metformin may reduce the likelihood of needing to go to the emergency room or be hospitalized for COVID-19."

The COVID-OUT trial was the first in the country to look at whether metformin, used to treat type 2 diabetes, fluvoxamine, an antidepressant, and ivermectin, an antiparisitic, or a combination of two of those medications could act as treatments to prevent ER visits, hospitalizations and long-term side effects of COVID.

Based on the results of the trial, researchers said they found no positive effect from treating COVID with either ivermectin or a low-dose of fluvoxamine.

According to the U, patients in the study were randomly assigned one of the three drugs, a placebo, or a combo of metformin and fluvoxamine or metformin and ivermectin. Participants enrolled in the study within three days of testing positive for COVID and took the medications for 3-14 days, tracked their symptoms and after two weeks, completed a survey.

The trial began in Jan. 2021 and included volunteer patients from Minneapolis and across the country.

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