Glucophage is the brand name of the generic drug metformin hydrochloride. It is FDA-approved for the management of type-2 diabetes, but many doctors use it off-label for insulin resistance in non-diabetic patients. It's thought that if Glucophage is given to patients with risk factors for developing diabetes in the future, then in many cases diabetes could be prevented or delayed. Glucophage works by helping your body become more sensitive to its own insulin, as well as reducing the amount of glucose absorption from the foods we eat and reducing the amount of glucose that is produced by the liver.
I was told that I was insulin resistant in 2005, and my doctor recommended this drug along with a diabetic-type diet. I started out at 500 mg once a day for a week, and then moved up to taking 500 mg twice a day.
I spent my first two months on Glucophage on a roller-coaster of sensations including insatiable hunger, food aversion, and nausea. It is expected that as the insulin levels come down and the body adjusts other hormones in response to the drug that some side effects will occur. Some days I wanted to eat every few hours, while other days I'd be in the middle of a meal that had looked good when I made it, but that suddenly smelled or tasted so bad that if I didn't get it out of my sight I knew I was going to throw up.
Many patients experience gastrointestinal upset with this drug, but most of what I had was nausea and food aversion. It is important to take this medication with food to decrease the incidence of GI side effects, but it's hard to stick to that rule for two meals a day when you just don't want to think about food. There is a newer version now that is an extended release tablet that only needs to be taken once a day, and it supposedly reduces many of the side effects.
However, I'd go through those two months again in a heartbeat. I lost about five pounds a month my first six months on Glucophage, for a total of a 30-pound weight loss. The long-term health benefits of weight loss are much more important than a few months of not feeling so great. I also think that people who willingly take this drug and understand what it's for are kidding themselves if they think they won't experience some changes in how they feel. Having increased levels of insulin in your body is abnormal, and it needs to be corrected. However, our endocrine systems are complex, and when you change something that's been elevated for an extended period of time you're bound to feel the effects of it.
I stopped taking Glucophage after almost three years when my doctor thought that I didn't need it anymore. I still monitor my blood sugar (although it's never been elevated: in pre-diabetes you usually see increased insulin levels and normal glucose levels) and see my doctor regularly in case I ever need to go back on it. I also stick to a diabetic diet, and I'm amazed at how little I eat these days: when my insulin levels were high I was hungry every few hours and sometimes I'd put away more food than my teenage brother. Now I don't have to be embarrassed if I go out to eat with friends because I'm eating less than half the volume of food that I used to eat.
The best part about this drug is the fact that it's generic, so it makes prevention of serious diseases like diabetes much more affordable for everyone who may be at risk. I got my refills at Wal-Mart and paid $4 for a one-month supply.