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Apr 14, 2014

Diabetes Drug Ruled Out as Heart Attack Treatment

A common diabetes drug, metformin, failed to improve outcomes for non-diabetic patients after a heart attack.

A common diabetes drug failed to improve outcomes for patients after a heart attack, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This study tested the use of metformin (brand names include Fortamet and Glucophage), a common medication that helps manage blood sugar levels, as a possible treatment for non-diabetic patients after a heart attack. Referred to as the GIPS-III trial, this study included 380 Dutch patients who suffered a heart attack between 2011 and 2013. After undergoing angioplasty to treat the heart attacks, patients were randomly chosen to take metformin or an inactive pill twice daily for a total of four months. Although patients in the study did not have diabetes, researchers were hoping the drug might have extra benefits beyond simply blood sugar control, like helping the heart recover following a heart attack.

Unfortunately, researchers failed to find any difference in the heart function of participants taking the active vs. inactive drug after four months. However, risk of complications was the same in both groups, which suggests that metformin is at least safe for heart attack patients.

Despite disappointing findings, authors have many possible explanations for why the trial failed. It’s possible that heart attack treatment has improved so much that there was little room for further improvement by using this drug. Authors also add that it’s also possible patients in the study didn’t suffer severe enough heart attacks to see an advantage with the current study design. They believe it’s possible that different types of trials might produce different results, but as of now there aren’t any trials scheduled to further research the use of metformin in non-diabetic heart attack patients.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How are heart attacks treated?
  • Early treatment for a heart attack can greatly increase chances of survival and minimize permanent damage to the heart. Immediate treatment can include medicine, a minimally invasive procedure called angioplasty or surgery (coronary artery bypass grafting).
  • How can I prevent a second heart attack?
  • Patients with a history of heart attack are at high risk for having a future heart attack. After suffering a heart attack, it’s important to work with your doctor to reduce risk with any combination of therapies, such as cardiac rehabilitation, lifestyle changes, and/or medication.

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