Biguanides: Uses, Common Brands, and Safety Info

Biguanides are oral antidiabetic drugs commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. They work by reducing glucose production and improving insulin sensitivity. Metformin is the most prescribed biguanide. It is generally safe, but side effects such as gastrointestinal symptoms may occur. Rarely, lactic acidosis can happen, so it's important to follow prescribed dosages and seek medical attention if necessary.


Biguanides are a class of oral antidiabetic drugs that are commonly used to manage type 2 diabetes mellitus. They work by decreasing the amount of glucose produced by the liver and by enhancing the body's ability to use insulin effectively. This drug class is considered a first-line treatment option for type 2 diabetes and is often prescribed along with lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise.


The primary use of biguanides is to control blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. They help lower both fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels, leading to improved glycemic control. Biguanides are particularly beneficial for individuals who are overweight or obese and may also help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Additionally, biguanides have been used off-label for conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). They can help regulate menstrual cycles and improve insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS, thereby aiding in fertility and reducing excessive hair growth.

Common Brands

Metformin is the most commonly prescribed biguanide and is available under various brand names such as Glucophage, Glumetza, and Fortamet. It is available in both immediate-release and extended-release formulations. Other biguanides, such as phenformin and buformin, have been withdrawn from the market due to safety concerns.


Biguanides, particularly metformin, are generally considered safe and well-tolerated when used as prescribed. However, like any medication, they can cause side effects. The most common side effects include gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. These symptoms can often be managed by taking the medication with food or using the extended-release formulation. Additionally, individuals with kidney, liver, or heart disease should use biguanides with caution and under close medical supervision.

Rarely, but potentially serious, a side effect of biguanide use is lactic acidosis, a buildup of lactic acid in the body. This can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and report any unusual symptoms to a healthcare provider.

In conclusion, biguanides are an important class of drugs used for the management of type 2 diabetes. They help control blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Metformin is the most commonly prescribed biguanide and is generally considered safe when used as directed. It is always essential to consult with a healthcare professional for the appropriate prescription and monitoring while taking biguanides.