DOCTORS in the Chinese coronavirus epi-centre of Wuhan are hailing a cheap pill dating back to the 1950s as a new weapon to combat killer Covid-19.
The diabetes drug metformin, which costs 3p per tablet and is already being used by the NHS, is also emerging as an effective breast cancer and heart disease treatment.
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Doctors in Wuhan, where the Covid-19 pandemic began earlier this year, have recently published a study showing that diabetics taking metformin were much less likely to die than diabetics not taking the drug.
Research by the University of Minnesota also found the drug may be helpful in reducing the risk of death from the virus.
The findings of the study found the drug reduces the inflammatory response in the body.
This could be key to fighting the bug because inflammation and the subsequent cytokine storm is among the main causes of death.
The hopeful news comes after researchers found that the widely available steroid dexamethasone cuts deaths by up to a third among patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those on oxygen.
Treating the coronavirus with medicines is seen as key in the fight against the virus because a vaccine has not yet been developed.
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Like dexamethasone, metformin is cheap and widely available, which is good news for developing countries.
Studies have also found it also helps overweight and obese people shed weight even if they don’t have diabetes.
Overweight and obese people are at greater risk of serious complications or death from Covid-19.
But another disease metformin could help fight is breast cancer which kills about 11,400 people each year.
Suzy Birkett believes her survival from the country’s 4th most lethal cancer, is down to the drug which she took part in a trial at the private Care Oncology Clinic in London.
Doctors found metformin improved the effectiveness of conventional cancer drugs, as well as disrupting cancer cell signals.
Sury told the Daily Mail she is convinced the drugs industry "has taken its eye off the ball" by looking in the wrong direction for treatments for her illness.
She said: "It's a very powerful treatment but it's been slow to catch on.
"Who's going to pay for big trials for regulatory approval when there is no profit at the end? Metformin is dirt cheap."
Evidence is also growing suggesting metformin may help other conditions that affect older people.
A giant project in the US called TAME (Treating Ageing with Metformin) is set to monitor 3,500 people aged 65 to 80 who are being treated for cancer, heart disease and dementia for five years.
They will be given metformin in addition to standard treatment for their condition.
Nir Barzilai, scientific director of the American Federation For Aging Research, told Good Health: "There are a number of studies showing that if you give metformin to animals they live longer."
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