To fight severe coronavirus disease and even ageing, make metformin an OTC drug, now!

This is a post by a Guest Author
Disclaimer: The author’s views are entirely his or her own, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the Consumer Choice Center.


For more than a month now, the COVID-19 epidemic that struck China and risks spreading globally has understandably captured the attention of much of the world. While apparently less fatal than its close relative SARS, COVID-19 is much more easily spread and, like the former, capable of causing severe lung pathology and aberrant immune responses that kill 1–3% of the patients and probably cause serious disability in those with severe illness who recover.

As Zumla et al. note in the recent Lancet piece, much of the response so far has understandably been aimed at arresting the spread of the disease from central China, however, this should not undermine the urgency of developing treatments against it, especially its severe form. While Gilead’s novel anti-Ebola drug remdesivir has shown glimpses of promise against COVID-19 and could even see mass production in China in generic form, according to Zumla et al., there is another, extremely cheap and widely available drug that could potentially help those that need help the most. The drug in question is the wonder-drug against diabetes type II, metformin:

Specific drugs to treat 2019-nCoV will take several years to develop and evaluate. In the meantime, a range of existing host-directed therapies that have proven to be safe could potentially be repurposed to treat 2019-nCoV infection. Several marketed drugs with excellent safety profiles such as metformin, glitazones, fibrates, sartans, and atorvastin, as well as nutrient supplements and biologics could reduce immunopathology, boost immune responses, and prevent or curb ARDS [acute respiratory distress syndrome — D.G.].

Thus, even though metformin is not a direct treatment for the Wuhan coronavirus itself, it is quite possibly a means of preventing severe, potentially fatal complications in the already infected people, which is a significant benefit, in my book.

There is even more to this drug, however, than its role in treating diabetes and potentially helping save people with COVID-19.

Basic facts and history of metformin

Metformin is the most widely used treatment against diabetes type II. As David Sinclair, tells us, “Metformin is a derivative of a natural molecule called a “biguanide,” from a flower called Galega officinalis, also known as “goat’s rue” or “French lilac.” It has been used as a herbal medicine in Europe for centuries. In 1957, Frenchman Jean Sterne published a paper demonstrating the effectiveness of oral dimethyl biguanide to treat type 2 diabetes. Since then, the drug has become one of the most widely taken and effective medicines on the globe.” Metformin’s mechanism of action in diabetes is through decreasing glucose production in the liver.

It is one of the cheapest medicines and is universally considered as highly safe and effective, and only causes the severe complication of lactic acidosis in a small proportion of users, usually those with impaired renal and (or) hepatic function. Some researchers think that it may actually not cause lactic acidosis at all.

Metformin, ageing and diseases of ageing

Even though the exact mechanism of how metformin might slow down ageing is not well-understood, it has been known at least since 2002 that its administration activates the AMPK pathway, at least in the human skeletal muscle cells of type II diabetics.

The most fascinating hint that metformin could have significant anti-ageing benefits in humans has been provided by the recent study conducted by Bannister et al. In it, they compared the mortality of British diabetics who were prescribed metformin to those who were prescribed another drug and that of non-diabetics. Astonishingly, the results suggest that people taking metformin could live longer than even non-diabetics, even though diabetes is supposed to be a systemic, debilitating disease.

Another extremely impressive result that directly relates to humans comes from the study in which metformin was one of the three drugs administered to nine volunteers for a year (the other two were human growth hormone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)). Astonishingly, the volunteers have shown signs of reversal of their epigenetic age as measured by their epigenetic clocks (by on average 2.5 years).

Finally, metformin is a potential drug candidate against several severe particular pathologies of ageing such as Alzheimer’ssome cancersheart diseasechronic inflammation and leaky gut. Even outside aging, it could help treat debilitating conditions like inflammatory bowel disease.

Metformin’s restricted status is a global disgrace

The fact that metformin could help save people struck by severe Wuhan coronavirus disease, that it could prolong people’s lives and make them better able to benefit from more revolutionary anti-ageing treatments down the road, while being safe for the vast majority of people makes it astonishing, jaw-dropping, if you will, that there is apparently only one country in the world where it is officially available over-the-counter — Thailand.

To say that this situation is outrageous would be a severe understatement. There is no remotely reasonable justification under any possible risk model to continue classifying metformin as a prescription drug. The only plausible result of doing that is massive suffering and premature deaths. Public health authorities all over the world must follow the example of Thailand and release metformin over the counter.

The World Health Organization (WHO) must play its role, too. It lists metformin among the world’s essential medicines but the best possible way of ensuring access to it, if it is so sorely needed and safe, is to make it an OTC drug. It should call upon countries to do just that. The WHO’s position on ageing also needs to be thoroughly revised. Its current approach is to promote something called “healthy ageing.” It should lead in recognizing that ageing is a pathology, and the one that causes the most suffering at that. Ageing cannot be healthy by definition.

Recognizing ageing as the pathology it is would quickly pave the way to making drugs like metformin available to everyone who would like to try to prolong their lives.

Guest post by Daniil Gorbatenko.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

14 comments on “To fight severe coronavirus disease and even ageing, make metformin an OTC drug, now!

  1. Fred Cowan says:

    Many drugs and supplements have primary or secondary anti-inflammatory action. It would be wise to research this more diligently, especial synergistic actions, and ask and evaluate what patients are taking compared to their outcomes for many disease with inflammatory pathology. Metformin as suggested is a prime candidate. Just randomly taking drugs or supplements will probably not do much harm or good. Research can predict efficacy and synergy to accomplish this vision.
    Phytochemical combinations that regulate pathological immunity. (US20110305779A1)
    https://patents.google.com/patent/US20110305779A1/en

    1. Rajesh says:

      Do we have specific data regarding the outcome of covid infection in subjects on Metformin versus those not on Metformin. Of course, we would have to discount the fact that almost everyone on Metformin would be a diabetes and might be suffering from other complications.
      Just a cohort of cases in early diabetes on Metformin versus age matched non diabetic cases could form the basis of the study.

  2. Robert Kaus says:

    “Specific drugs to treat 2019-nCoV will take several years to develop and evaluate. In the meantime, a range of existing host-directed therapies that have proven to be safe could potentially be repurposed to treat 2019-nCoV infection. Several marketed drugs with excellent safety profiles such as metformin, glitazones, fibrates, sartans, and atorvastin, as well as nutrient supplements and biologics could reduce immunopathology, boost immune responses, and prevent or curb ARDS [acute respiratory distress syndrome — D.G.].”

    I’m not at all surprised at the above, but I wish you would have linked something. I don’t understand the reference. Is that a journal name? Is “D.G.” the author? Not enough information.

    1. Concerned says:

      I’m betting the D.G. at the end of the quote refers to Daniil Gorbatenko, the name of the guest poster. Hopefully this is some kind of formatting mistake.

      I did however find the text quoted in the third paragraph of the Lancet article D.G. linked before the quote.

      I’ve yet to read all the source material but that Lancet article in itself is a very short statement that refers to other studies. Mainly those concerning SARS and MERS which are both in the coronavirus family.

      Before people start taking Metformin as a way to treat their illness, I’d like to point out that co-morbidity for diabetes patients is high according to numbers taken from about 55000 patients in China.

      It’s not yet confirmed to my knowledge what the connection is, and if it happens to be connected to medication taken by such patients then the self-medication or uncontrolled medication with such medicines could serve to worsen the condition instead of helping it.

      I’m not a doctor and I know I’ve been lazy enough not to cite my sources, I just wanted to raise a few more concerns than this article does as I myself found it because it was linked to me by diabetes patients that are close to me and were in different stages of happiness and concern about it.

      I recommend reading through the material and discussing it with your doctor before you take any measures that could potentially harm you, like almost every medication can.

      Live long and prosper.

      1. Still here says:

        I don’t know if this helps or not and I’m not a Doctor. I take metformin (4 × 500mg per day) for type 2 diabetes. I also take atorvastatin (1 × 80mg at night). I’m 50 years old and had a heart attack in June 2019 (1 × stent fitted) and my heart is moderately damaged. I have high blood pressure and peripheral arterial disease in my legs. Anyway, last week I suddenly felt very cold and went to bed to try and warm up. During the night I developed a dry cough and other flu like symptoms (could’ve been covid-19). I normally hate taking my pills but for the last couple of days I have been clucking for them like an addict. I’m feeling a lot better already and I’m convinced that something I’m taking has helped. Yesterday on the BBC news channel I saw an interview with somebody researching this in Palma, Mallorca for use against the virus.

        1. Mark Taylor says:

          Hi which drug was mentioned was it Metformin or atorvastatin in the BBC programme you watched?

          1. Colin Nicol says:

            I saw the article as well, and it was Metformin.

            CN

  3. David Bell says:

    The Glitazone drugs mentioned in the article are now known not to be safe and no longer recommended for diabetes treatment

    1. Andrew says:

      Hi I have type 2 diabetes for whitch is controlled by metformin by taking this drug will it prevent me from getting vivid 19 virus?

  4. Thomas says:

    I am a diabetic and take metformin. Please do not start an unsubstantiated rumor like this. It could literally kill people like me if there is a shortage because perfectly healthy people are buying up a medication that keeps me alive and keeps my immune system strong by controlling my blood sugar levels.

    1. Janice says:

      Plus, if it goes otc we are likely to pay a lot more for it.

  5. Zinc has been found to be very beneficial against covid-19. Folic acid works with zinc in the body. Reduce folic acid with an antifolate like metformin, which doesn’t deplete a lot of other nutrients, and you get a benefit. The extra zinc that would otherwise be doing other body housekeeping chores will instead be prioritized to the immune system.

    One specific benefit of metformin and Metformin extended release is that they are slow and continual acting. This makes it gentle her and even her on the body, especially good for people who are undermethylators, whose bodies adapt slower.

    It is the long and slow and gentle acting reduction of a small amount of folic acid that is beneficial. Risking giving people a medication that would reduce their blood sugar if they are not already diabetic puts them at risk. Isn’t there a better antifolate available?

  6. There are many incorrect comments above. Metformin is not an antifolate. It lowers B12, not folic acid so making it over the counter is currently not an option unless someone gets round to producing a combination pill. Yes the drug is now considered ‘normo-glycaemic’ in other words it controls blood sugar to normal levels, in fact mostly through the action in the gut rather than the liver.
    Metformin reduces Covid because it is an mTOR inhibitor which is part of the host cell machinery the virus uses to replicate. There is a supplement that mimics these actions (but not all) similar to Metformin called berberine. This mTOR inhibition is also partly why Metformin is extremely useful for cancer patients as it helps ‘starve cancer’ through several metabolic pathways. Please see my FB group (or shameless plug for book) How To Starve Cancer for more on this.
    Given the huge number of pharma companies able to produce Metformin as it is no longer under patent, production should be ramped up by them all.
    I have had cancer four times, I am not diabetic but I use it daily alongside a cocktail of other off label drugs as part of my prevention strategy. Not just for cancer but Covid too as I also have cystic fibrosis. I really wish it were over the counter!

  7. Erik Fred says:

    I will not advise anyone who uses metformin or insulin to treat diabetes as I have been using metformin drugs for over 15 years and it has resulted in erectile dysfunction. thanks to doctor Nelson Salim, herbalist from morocco, whom i found on x-ray who completely healed diabetes and enlarged prostate in 21 days. the doctor’s contact details have been shared for those who want to try his treatment and I did, today I am completely cured of type 2 diabetes and erectile dysfunction with natural herbs. he sent his herbal medicine to my country which i received within 3 days via DHL service and with his instructions i used the treatment for 21 days and am here to testify. its herbal medicine is affordable and works effectively and has no side effects. his official e-mail; drnelsonsalim10@ gmail. com
    or whatsapp / call +212612145772.
    He said he had a cure for; kidney disease, Lyme disease, hepatitis, breast cancer and infertility

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