A study looking at the effects of a widely prescribed diabetes drug linked the drug to an increased risk of birth defects.
The Danish study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that men who took metformin, a drug commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes, within three months of conceiving a child were 40% more likely to have children with birth defects.
Curiously, the study – which analyzed more than a million births via national registers in Denmark between the years 1997-2016 – does not go into detail about the type of defects that occur, only that they are “genitals” and that these defects were found most often in male infants.
While the frequency of genital birth defects, which were the only type identified by researchers as statistically significant, in children born to fathers with type 2 diabetes was 3.1% overall, the frequency increased to 4.6% for babies whose fathers took metformin in the previous three months. to design.
The study, which involved more than one million babies born to women under 35 without diabetes and men under 40, was undertaken because, as the researchers wrote, “Diabetes reduces sperm quality and occurs increasingly during childbearing years.
In addition to looking at men who take metformin for their diabetes, the researchers also focused on men who were also taking insulin for diabetes and found that it was not correlated with genital birth defects. in the same way as metformin.
The researchers also found that men who took metformin before the three-month period before conception were no more likely to end up with children with birth defects.
Studies such as this are more aimed at correlating with the intent of future studies, and the authors acknowledged that “information on the underlying disease state was limited” and that “further research should replicate these results and clarify causality”.
Whether the discovery should affect drugs anyone is currently taking is an open question that experts say patients should leave to their doctors.
“In general, metformin is effective, cheap and safe for the person taking it. These are important factors to consider,” said Maarten Wensink, epidemiologist at the University of Southern Denmark and co-author of the research. Live Science. “Whether or not to take metformin is a decision that each patient must make. [discuss] with their attending physician.
But for now, these troubling results should, at the very least, underscore the importance of neonatal care for both men and women.
READ MORE: Preconception antidiabetic drugs in men and birth defects in offspring [Annals of Internal Medicine]
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