Diabetics who take metformin will want to contact their healthcare providers after multiple recalls of the drug have occurred due to the discovery of elevated levels of a cancer-causing compound. Multiple lots of the extended release version of the drug from multiple manufacturers tested positive for the presence of NDMA, or N-Nitrosodimethylamine, in amounts that exceed FDA regulations.
According to the FDA, humans should be able to tolerate up to 96 nanograms of NDMA in a given day before it becomes carcinogenic. And, while data does not indicate the exact amount of NDMA found in the metformin samples, one would have to conclude that it was far enough above the prescribed limit to trigger voluntary recall action from a variety of manufacturers including Teva Pharmaceuticals and Sun Pharmaceuticals.
The immediate release versions of the medication failed to test positive for NDMA and, as such, are excluded from the recall action. However, regardless of the version of metformin being taken, patients are advised against stopping their medication. Rather, patients taking extended release versions of metformin should continue taking the pills while simultaneously reaching out to their healthcare providers to discuss the recall and any corrective action that should be taken.
While “cancer-causing” sounds scary, one doctor notes that we are exposed to such cancer-causing compounds every day. And, in most cases, our bodies react and cope to the presence. Carcinogens can be found in barbequed meats, beer, bacon, cheese, and other foods, and that’s just the start. Stopping one’s medication as a result of this recall could do more harm than good. As the doctor notes, “Don’t panic,” she says. “Just have a nice discussion with your provider. And make sure that if the medication’s the only thing that’s controlling your disease, don’t stop it. Just go in and ask and say, ‘what are my alternatives?’”