Association between metformin use and disease progression in obese people with knee osteoarthritis: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative - A prospective cohort study

Yuanyuan Wang, Sultana Monira Hussain, Anita E. Wluka, Yuan Z. Lim, François Abram, Jean Pierre Pelletier, Johanne Martel-Pelletier, Flavia M. Cicuttini

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Objective: To examine whether metformin use was associated with knee cartilage volume loss over 4 years and risk of total knee replacement over 6 years in obese individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Methods: This study analysed the Osteoarthritis Initiative participants with radiographic knee osteoarthritis (Kellgren-Lawrence grade ≥ 2) who were obese (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 30 kg/m2). Participants were classified as metformin users if they self-reported regular metformin use at baseline, 1-year and 2-year follow-up (n = 56). Non-users of metformin were defined as participants who did not report the use of metformin at any visit from baseline to 4-year follow-up (n = 762). Medial and lateral cartilage volume (femoral condyle and tibial plateau) were assessed using magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and 4 years. Total knee replacement over 6 years was assessed. General linear model and binary logistic regression were used for statistical analyses. Results: The rate of medial cartilage volume loss was lower in metformin users compared with non-users (0.71% vs. 1.57% per annum), with a difference of - 0.86% per annum (95% CI - 1.58% to - 0.15%, p = 0.02), after adjustment for age, gender, BMI, pain score, Kellgren-Lawrence grade, self-reported diabetes, and weight change over 4 years. Metformin use was associated with a trend towards a significant reduction in risk of total knee replacement over 6 years (odds ratio 0.30, 95% CI 0.07-1.30, p = 0.11), after adjustment for age, gender, BMI, Kellgren-Lawrence grade, pain score, and self-reported diabetes. Conclusions: These data suggest that metformin use may have a beneficial effect on long-term knee joint outcomes in those with knee osteoarthritis and obesity. Randomised controlled trials are needed to confirm these findings and determine whether metformin would be a potential disease-modifying drug for knee osteoarthritis with the obese phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127
Number of pages6
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2019


  • Cartilage
  • Metformin
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Total knee replacement

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