Can Metformin Be Purchased Over the Counter?

In this article, we will take a close look at Metformin, a medication used to control high blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. We will understand how it works, its effects, and why it is not available for purchase over the counter.
Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the
University of Oxford.

Summary

Metformin is a medication used to control high blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. It helps to lower glucose production in the liver and absorption in the intestines. However, it is a prescription medication and cannot be purchased over the counter.

What is Metformin?

Metformin is a widely used oral medication to reduce elevated blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. It is considered the first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes and between 2008 and 2012 was the 8th most prescribed medication in the United States [1, 2, 3]. It can be in immediate or extended release tablets [4, 5].

How Does Metformin Work?

Metformin reduces the production and release of sugar from the liver by blocking a biological process called gluconeogenesis. It can also increase insulin sensitivity of cells, which makes the cells more likely to take in glucose in the presence of some insulin in the blood [2, 6].

The cellular-level effect of Metformin is complex, but can be summarised as follows:

In addition to its effects on reducing blood sugar, metformin has been found to have several non-glycaemic effects. These include benefits in:

Metformin also increases plasma concentrations of the glucose-lowering gut incretin hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which may contribute to its glucose-lowering effect in patients with type 2 diabetes [7]. This is similar to how peptides for weight loss work, including dulaglutide and semaglutide and may explain the link between metformin and weight stabilisation.

Can You Buy Metformin Over The Counter?

Metformin is a prescription drug, which means you cannot buy it over the counter.

Brand names Of Metformin

None of the Metformin formulations (immediate and extended release) can be brought over the counter.

The immediate-release tablet is available only as a generic drug, while the extended-release tablet is available as the brand-name drugs Fortamet and Glumetza. Both forms are also available as generic drugs, which usually cost less than brand-name versions [8].

It is important to note that the use of metformin should always be under the supervision of a healthcare provider due to potential side effects and the need for regular monitoring of liver and kidney function [9, 10].

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Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is a postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the University of Oxford. She has worked across a spectrum of hot topics in neuroscience, including her current project measuring reinforcement learning strategies in Parkinson’s disease. Previously, she studied the efficacy of psilocybin as a therapy for critical mental health conditions and examined molecular circadian rhythms of migraine disorders. She completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow and participated in a year abroad at the University of California, where she worked on a clinical trial for spinal cord injury.