Lactic acidosisLactic acidosis is a very rare, but serious (high mortality rate in the absence of prompt treatment), metabolic complication that can occur due to metformin accumulation. Reported cases of lactic acidosis in patients on metformin have occurred primarily in diabetic patients with impaired renal failure or acute worsening of renal function. Special caution should be paid to situations where renal function may become impaired, for example in case of dehydration (severe diarrhoea or vomitting), or when initiating antihypertensive therapy or diuretic therapy and when starting therapy with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). In the acute conditions listed, metformin should be temporarily discontinued.
Other associated risk factors should be considered to avoid lactic acidosis such as poorly controlled diabetes, ketosis, prolonged fasting, excessive alcohol intake, hepatic insufficiency and any condition associated with hypoxia (such as decompensated cardiac failure, acute myocardial infarction) (see also section 4.3).
The risk of lactic acidosis must be considered in the event of non-specific signs such as muscle cramps, digestive disorders as abdominal pain and severe asthenia. Patients should be instructed to notify these signs immediately to their physicians if they occur, notably if patients had a good tolerance to metformin before. Metformin should be discontinued, at least temporarily, until the situation is clarified. Reintroduction of metformin should then be discussed taking into account the benefit/risk ratio in an individual basis as well as renal function.
Diagnosis:Lactic acidosis is characterised by acidotic dyspnoea, abdominal pain and hypothermia followed by coma. Diagnostic laboratory findings are decreased blood pH, plasma lactate levels above 5 mmol/L, and an increased anion gap and lactate/pyruvate ratio. In case of lactic acidosis, the patient should be hospitalised immediately (see section 4.9).
Physicians should alert the patients on the risk and on the symptoms of lactic acidosis.
Renal functionAs metformin is excreted by the kidney, creatinine clearance (this can be estimated from serum creatinine levels by using the Cockcroft-Gault formula) or eGFR should be determined before initiating treatment and regularly thereafter:
• at least annually in patients with normal renal function,
• at least two to four times a year in patients with creatinine clearance at the lower limit of normal and in elderly subjects.
In case CrCl is <45 ml/min (eGFR < 45 ml/min/1.73m2), metformin is contraindicated (see section 4.3).
Decreased renal function in elderly subjects is frequent and asymptomatic. Special caution should be exercised in situations where renal function may become impaired, for example in case of dehydration, or when initiating antihypertensive therapy or diuretic therapy and when starting therapy with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
In these cases, it is also recommended to check renal function before initiating treatment with metformin.
Cardiac function Patients with heart failure are more at risk of hypoxia and renal insufficiency. In patients with stable chronic heart failure, metformin may be used with a regular monitoring of cardiac and renal function.
For patients with acute and unstable heart failure, metformin is contraindicated (see section 4.3).
Administration of iodinated contrast mediaThe intravascular administration of iodinated contrast media in radiologic studies can lead to renal failure. This may induce metformin accumulation and may increase the risk for lactic acidosis. In patients with eGFR > 60 ml/min/1.73 m2, metformin must be discontinued prior to, or at the time of the test and not be reinstituted until at least 48 hours afterwards, and only after renal function has been re-evaluated and has not deteriorated further (see section 4.5).
In patients with moderate renal impairment (eGFR between 45 and 60 ml/min/1.73m2), metformin must be discontinued 48 hours before administration of iodinated contrast media and not be reinstituted until at least 48 hours afterwards and only after renal function has been re-evaluated and has not deteriorated further (see section 4.5).
SurgeryMetformin must be discontinued 48 hours before elective surgery under general, spinal or peridural anaesthesia. Therapy may be restarted no earlier than 48 hours following surgery or resumption of oral nutrition and only if normal renal function has been established.
Paediatric populationThe diagnosis of type 2 diabetes mellitus should be confirmed before treatment with metformin is initiated.
No effect of metformin on growth and puberty has been detected during controlled clinical studies of one-year duration but no long-term data on these specific points are available. Therefore, a careful follow-up of the effect of metformin on these parameters in metformin-treated children, especially prepubescent children, is recommended.
Children aged between 10 and 12 yearsOnly 15 subjects aged between 10 and 12 years were included in the controlled clinical studies conducted in children and adolescents. Although efficacy and safety of metformin in these children did not differ from efficacy and safety in older children and adolescents, particular caution is recommended when prescribing to children aged between 10 and 12 years.
Other precautionsAll patients should continue their diet with a regular distribution of carbohydrate intake during the day. Overweight patients should continue their energy-restricted diet.
The usual laboratory tests for diabetes monitoring should be performed regularly.
Metformin alone does not cause hypoglycaemia, but caution is advised when it is used in combination with insulin or other oral antidiabetics (e.g. sulfonylureas or meglitinides).
Aspartame contentGlucophage powder for oral solution contains aspartame, a source of phenylalanine. It is recommended to consider this fact before treatment is initiated in patients with phenylketonuria.