Metformin, the most commonly used medicine to lower blood- sugar, and the seventh most prescribed prescription medication in the United States is the subject of about 50 studies globally on it’s effectiveness of treating breast, colon, prostate and other leading cancer types.
The drug could be a cheap weapon in battling cancer, but the current studies that are measuring it’s effectiveness are not being supported by Big Pharma, and are instead being run by government and non-profit groups including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Cancer Research UK. The reason that Big Pharma is not interested in speeding up the clinical testing process is because metformin has been available since the mid 1950’s and is off patent, making it impossible for them to turn a profit if the initial studies showing it’s cancer battling effectiveness can be proven.
Metformin has long been known as an effective therapy for Type 2 diabetes and is prescribed to hundreds of thousands of Americans’ to lower there blood glucose levels by inhibiting the hormone insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 has been shown to have a role in cancer development in clinical studies and the studies done so far on diabetics show that 20 percent fewer cases of cancer exists in diabetics taking metformin compared to the general population.
An excellent overview of the various studies typing metformin to lower cancer rates were published by Bloomberg News this week.
With cancer cases growing worldwide and many drugs now costing tens of thousands of dollars, a cheap treatment option like metformin would be of a huge benefit in lowering medical costs. February. Cancer costs totaled $124.6 billion in the U.S. alone in 2010, according to the National Cancer Institute. But scientists who wanted to investigate metformin’s role as a cancer drug over a decade ago were unable to get clinical funding when one drug company realized it’s patent would be expired before the clinical studies were complete.
The cost of drug research and clinical trials is one of the justifications that Big Pharma uses to defend the U.S consumer paying more for medication than anyone else in the world. But it’s clear in cases like the promising data around metformin, that these same companies are reluctant to spend even a tiny fraction of their clinical budget to support research into older drugs that they can’t make massive profits on.
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