Metformin hydrochloride (Hcl) comes from a molecular family known as a biguanide. Along with its most common form metformin hydrochloride is made up in part as a hydrogen salt. The chemical formula of metformin Hcl is C4H11N5. This tells us that the following elements are part of this drug: Carbon, Hydrogen, and Nitrogen. There is also a trace of Chlorine in the molecule. The actual name of this compound is:
Structurally as shown below it is based upon the biguanide molecule. As a biguanide it is structurally quite different from all of the other oral agents used in treating diabetes. At this point it is quite inexpensive to produce, and is not an expensive drug.
For centuries compounds derived from the French lilac was used in the treatment of diabetes, but it was very toxic. Finally, two variants in the 1950s were found in animal studies to reduce blood glucose levels. One of these eventually resulted in metformin (the other was phenformin which is not used now). However, about the time that metformin was under development, insulin came out and became at that time the drug of choice for treating diabetes. This delayed the adoption of metformin so metformin was not officially approved by the FDA until 1994. It is now the most widely prescribed medication for Type 2 diabetes (non insulin dependent diabetes).
Molecular structure: the molecular structure of metformin is as shown below:
It is the only biguanide molecule used in healthcare at this time.
The mechanism of action of metformin is to inhibit the production of insulin while raising the amounts of glucose in plasma, which causes some of the glucose already present in the body to be consumed.