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Open access

Tess Jacob, Renee Garrick and Michael D Goldberg

Summary

Metformin is recommended as the first-line agent for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Although this drug has a generally good safety profile, rare but potentially serious adverse effects may occur. Metformin-associated lactic acidosis, although very uncommon, carries a significant risk of mortality. The relationship between metformin accumulation and lactic acidosis is complex and is affected by the presence of comorbid conditions such as renal and hepatic disease. Plasma metformin levels do not reliably correlate with the severity of lactic acidosis. We present a case of inadvertent metformin overdose in a patient with both renal failure and hepatic cirrhosis, leading to two episodes of lactic acidosis and hypoglycemia. The patient was successfully treated with hemodialysis both times and did not develop any further lactic acidosis or hypoglycemia, after the identification of metformin tablets accidentally mixed in with his supply of sevelamer tablets. Early initiation of renal replacement therapy is key in decreasing lactic acidosis-associated mortality.

Learning points:

  • When a toxic ingestion is suspected, direct visualization of the patient’s pills is advised in order to rule out the possibility of patient- or pharmacist-related medication errors.

  • Though sending a specimen for determination of the plasma metformin concentration is important when a metformin-treated patient with diabetes presents with lactic acidosis, complex relationships exist between metformin accumulation, hyperlactatemia and acidosis, and the drug may not always be the precipitating factor.

  • Intermittent hemodialysis is recommended as the first-line treatment for metformin-associated lactic acidosis (MALA).

  • An investigational delayed-release form of metformin with reduced systemic absorption may carry a lower risk for MALA in patients with renal insufficiency, in whom metformin therapy may presently be contraindicated.

Open access

Elena Carrillo, Amparo Lomas, Pedro J Pinés and Cristina Lamas

Summary

Mutations in hepatocyte nuclear factor 1β gene (HNF1B) are responsible for a multisystemic syndrome where monogenic diabetes (classically known as MODY 5) and renal anomalies, mostly cysts, are the most characteristic findings. Urogenital malformations, altered liver function tests, hypomagnesemia or hyperuricemia and gout are also part of the syndrome. Diabetes in these patients usually requires early insulinization. We present the case of a young non-obese male patient with a personal history of renal multicystic dysplasia and a debut of diabetes during adolescence with simple hyperglycemia, negative pancreatic autoimmunity and detectable C-peptide levels. He also presented epididymal and seminal vesicle cysts, hypertransaminasemia, hyperuricemia and low magnesium levels. In the light of these facts we considered the possibility of a HNF1B mutation. The sequencing study of this gene confirmed a heterozygous mutation leading to a truncated and less functional protein. Genetic studies of his relatives were negative; consequently, it was classified as a de novo mutation. In particular, our patient maintained good control of his diabetes on oral antidiabetic agents for a long period of time. He eventually needed insulinization although oral therapy was continued alongside, allowing reduction of prandial insulin requirements. The real prevalence of mutations in HNF1B is probably underestimated owing to a wide phenotypical variability. As endocrinologists, we should consider this possibility in young non-obese diabetic patients with a history of chronic non-diabetic nephropathy, especially in the presence of some of the other characteristic manifestations.

Learning points:

  • HNF1B mutations are a rare cause of monogenic diabetes, often being a part of a multisystemic syndrome.

  • The combination of young-onset diabetes and genitourinary anomalies with slowly progressive nephropathy of non-diabetic origin in non-obese subjects should rise the suspicion of such occurrence. A family history may not be present.

  • Once diagnosis is made, treatment of diabetes with oral agents is worth trying, since the response can be sustained for a longer period than the one usually described. Oral treatment can help postpone insulinization and, once this is necessary, can help reduce the required doses.