Ask the Pharmacist: Surprising uses for a diabetes drug

Suzy Cohen
File: Metformin hydrochloride tablets, used to treat diabetes.

Introduced in 1995 when I was just 30 years old, metformin quickly gained traction in the medical arena as the drug of choice to use in diabetes. Prior to its introduction in the United States, it had been used in France since 1957.  

More:Ask the Pharmacist: Hormone strategies for fatigue and menopause

It is sold globally by various different brand names, and in combination with other glucose-lowering agents. Metformin has some interesting uses, as well as cautions. There are an estimated 100 million people with diabetes in our country.

I’d like to share the pros and cons of the most popular diabetic medication in the world:


Causes B12 deficiency

It is a strong drug mugger of vitamin B12, and the longer you take it, the more profound the deficiency. If you take metformin, the obvious solution is to supplement with B12 and a high-quality probiotic since probiotics happen to manufacture B12.

Methylcobalamin is my suggestion, because it’s methylated and therefore, body-ready. It’s available everywhere nowadays. FYI, hair loss, poor memory recall, confusion, anemia and neuropathy are signs of B12 deficiency.

Questionable prostate benefits

The results from a brand-new study on prostate cancer were disappointing. It was expected that there would be some add-on benefits, but the results showed no significant clinical benefits when metformin was given along with chemotherapy. Previous results have suggested that metformin could be useful in this regard.

Uncomfortable side effects

Metformin has side effects such as occasional heartburn, indigestion, bloating and gas, weight loss, diarrhea/constipation, weird taste in the mouth and pancreatitis.

May harm kidneys

Severe lactic acidosis is a rare but very dangerous complication of metformin, and drugs in the same category. It occurs particularly in people with kidney compromise and/or failure.


Raises Serotonin

New research published in the June 3rd edition of The Journal of Neuroscience has concluded that metformin improves mood and reduces anxiety. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with happiness, self confidence, satiety and social interaction. Deficiencies of serotonin are often exhibited as OCD, depression and anxiety. 

Helps PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome which is characterized by weight gain, insulin resistance, cravings and skin discoloration. Metformin isn’t labeled for this disorder, however we know it works.

Manages cholesterol

Metformin may help reduce total cholesterol and low-density cholesterol (LDL) as well as blood pressure. Metformin may also reduce triglycerides according to some research.

Some tumors retreat

Metformin may suppress growth and improves immune function. It works by lowering blood sugar, which then improves cell receptor sensitivity (and number), which in turn controls the amount of blood sugar floating around in the blood stream. This is good because tumors and pathogens (ie fungi, viruses and bacteria) all feed on glucose, so if the sugar gets pushed into the cell then there’s less fuel to feed the pathogens and growing cells that went rogue.  

For natural remedies for diabetes, refer to my book, “Diabetes Without Drugs,” which is sold on Amazon and book stores nationwide.

More:Ask the Pharmacist: Your meds may deplete life-giving hormones

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit