Assessing the incidence of acidosis in patients receiving metformin with and without risk factors for lactic acidosis

Katy E. Trinkley, Heather D. Anderson, Kavita V. Nair, Daniel C. Malone, Joseph J. Saseen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Despite strong recommendations to use metformin as first-line therapy for type 2 diabetes (T2DM), its use has been suboptimal, likely due to concerns of lactic acidosis. This study compared the association of acidosis in patients with T2DM prescribed metformin with those prescribed other antihyperglycemic medications or no medications. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of patients with newly diagnosed T2DM utilizing an administrative database, which includes medical and prescription claims. Eligible patients had a diagnosis of T2DM, had continuous health plan enrollment 3 months prior to study enrollment and during the study period, and were at least 18 years of age. Mutually exclusive exposure groups were metformin only, other antihyperglycemic medications, and no medication. Acidosis cases were stratified by exposure group and risk factors for lactic acidosis (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hepatic dysfunction, alcohol abuse, heart failure, renal insufficiency, age of 80 years or older, and a history of acidosis). Degree of renal insufficiency was not available. Associations between exposure and acidosis were estimated, and risk factors evaluated. Results: A total of 132,780 patients met inclusion criteria: 24,936 (20%) metformin only group, 15,059 (11%) other antihyperglycemic medication group, and 92,785 (70%) no medication group. Acidosis was observed in 1.45 per 10,000 patient months (0.78 metformin, 1.59 other antihyperglycemic medication, 1.51 no medication). The unadjusted relative risk of acidosis was 0.5 for patients prescribed metformin only compared with the other exposure groups (95% confidence interval = 0.2–1.2). There was no significant difference in risk of acidosis between exposure groups, irrespective of risk factors for lactic acidosis. Conclusions: Risk of acidosis was similar with metformin only compared with those prescribed other antihyperglycemic medications or no medication. These results support expanded use of metformin for T2DM. Additional studies are needed to understand the impact of risk factor severity on risk of lactic acidosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-190
Number of pages12
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • lactic acidosis
  • metformin
  • type 2 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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