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Diabet Med. 2016 Apr;33(4):511-4. doi: 10.1111/dme.13040. Epub 2015 Dec 24.

Organic cation transporter 1 variants and gastrointestinal side effects of metformin in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

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Department of Biochemistry and Clinical Analysis, University of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Clinic for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Diseases, University Clinical Centre of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Division of Cardiovascular & Diabetes Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK.
Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, International University of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.



Metformin is the most widely used oral anti-diabetes agent and has considerable benefits over other therapies, yet 20-30% of people develop gastrointestinal side effects, and 5% are unable to tolerate metformin due to the severity of these side effects. The mechanism for gastrointestinal side effects and their considerable inter-individual variability is unclear. We have recently shown the association between organic cation transporter 1 (OCT1) variants and severe intolerance to metformin in people with Type 2 diabetes. The aim of this study was to explore the association of OCT1 reduced-function polymorphisms with common metformin-induced gastrointestinal side effects in Type 2 diabetes.


This prospective observational cohort study included 92 patients with newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes, incident users of metformin. Patients were genotyped for two common loss-of-function variants in the OCT1 gene (SLC22A1): R61C (rs12208357) and M420del (rs72552763). The association of OCT1 reduced-function alleles with gastrointestinal side effects was analysed using logistic regression.


Forty-three patients (47%) experienced gastrointestinal adverse effects in the first 6 months of metformin treatment. Interestingly, the number of OCT1 reduced-function alleles was significantly associated with over two-fold higher odds of the common metformin-induced gastrointestinal side effects (odds ratio = 2.31, 95% confidence interval 1.07-5.01, P = 0.034).


In conclusion, we showed for the first time the association between OCT1 variants and common metformin-induced gastrointestinal side effects. These results confirm recent findings related to the role of OCT1 in severe metformin intolerance, and suggest that high inter-individual variability in mild/moderate and severe gastrointestinal intolerance share a common underlying mechanism. These data could contribute to more personalized and safer metformin treatment.

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