Diabetes Drug Metformin May Protect Hips and Knees

A large new study based on the health insurance data of more than 40,000 type 2 diabetes patients found that those who used metformin to manage high blood sugar levels were less likely to need total joint replacement.

The research, published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by scientists from China, Taiwan, and Australia, showed an association between regular use of metformin and about a 30 percent reduced likelihood of needing total knee replacement or total hip replacement. This association did not mean that metformin was conclusively proven to cause a lower rate of joint replacements, according to study authors.

Joint replacements are a common treatment for people with advanced osteoarthritis, a chronic joint disorder that often leaves older people in pain and unable to walk or perform other daily functions. Diabetes has been linked with a greater risk of osteoarthritis.

In the United States, the number of total knee replacement and total hip replacement surgeries is projected to reach 572,000 per year by 2030. No medications are currently known to prevent or reverse osteoarthritis.

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