Is that metformin my doctor prescribed me going to give me cancer?
Many of you have heard on the news about a recall of metformin extended release. Let’s try to understand what the concern is about.
When medications are made and “purified”, they sometimes undergo a chemical process resulting in very small amounts of certain unwanted chemicals called “impurities”. Sometimes, some part of the medication may breakdown or be changed into other substances under conditions like heat, light exposure, moisture or just over time.
Medications approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) are tightly regulated and watched for such impurities. Some of the extended release forms of metformin (metformin ER) have been found to have higher than accepted levels of the chemical N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in it. This is only true for some batches from a few drug manufacturers. Although present at low levels in our environment including tap water, bacon, beer, and tobacco products, NDMA may cause some forms of cancer when present at higher levels over extend periods of time. It has not been found in any of the regular release metformin brands at this time.
We at UIHS are very aware of this news and are keeping a close watch on such alerts and recalls. So far, none of the metformin ER dispensed from UIHS pharmacy have been involved in a recall. UIHS pharmacists and staff keep a close watch on all recalls and alerts daily. If there is a recall of a medication you have received that poses a danger to you, we will let you know right away.
We know taking medications sometimes feels scary. Providers only prescribe medications when it is necessary to improve your health. UIHS providers try to make sure this is done under the safest circumstances possible. We have special alerts in our electronic medical record software that help make sure we don’t give you medications that interact in an unsafe way. If you ever have questions about the medication you are taking please speak with your medical provider, your pharmacist, or the diabetes team if they are involved in your care.
Terry Raymer MD, CDE, UIHS Diabetes Program
Timothy Connell PharmD, UIHS Pharmacy Director