A study by the University of Southern Denmark has found that taking metformin, a diabetes drug, could cause defects in males before conception. These findings come when physicians have prescribed metformin for years as a first-line drug to patients. It demonstrates that the drug could lead to genital defects in male children if the patients take it when their sperm develops.
Taking the drug before conception could increase the risk
The researchers titled the study Preconception Antidiabetic Drugs in Men and Birth Defects in Offspring and published it in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal. It showed that children of men who took the drug were thrice more likely to develop genital defects.
Hypospadias was a common genital defect in these children. With this defect, their urethra doesn’t exit the penis tip. While the defect is rare, researchers found that its relevance was higher in men who had taken metformin. Their make offspring were 0.9% more likely to develop the defect if they had taken the drug up to a month before conception.
Epidemiologists argue that while the occurrence is rare, these findings could help men with type-2 diabetes taking the drug, thus protecting the offspring.
The study is more relevant due to the increasing rates of obesity
According to Germaine Buck Louis, a lead study author and reproductive epidemiologist from George Mason University, the study is important as the rising rates of obesity mean that younger men also develop diabetes. For this reason, hypospadias in offspring could potentially be an issue for men of reproductive age. This study would help prevent this.
However, Louis notes that more work is to be done on the area as the study was observational and preliminary. He adds that there might have been other factors in play that led to hypospadias other than the drug. Moreover, scientists warn diabetes men to avoid suddenly stopping metformin because they plan to conceive soon.
Another epidemiologist and lead author of the study, Maarten Wensink, adds that metformin is typically an affordable, effective, and safe drug. Stopping it abruptly could lead to complications; thus, people who want to stop taking it should see a physician.
This study is the first to look into its effects on children.