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Assessment of the efficacy of a novel treatment for blocked leg arteries

Professor Jonathan Golledge, Institution: James Cook University

2018 Vanguard Grant

Years funded: 2019-2021


Blockage of the lower limb arteries (peripheral artery disease; PAD) leads to severe leg pain, walking impairment, and a substantial risk of leg amputation and death. Approximately 200 million people worldwide and approximately 1 million Australians have blocked leg arteries. This problem has recognised treatment deficiencies in comparison to other common diseases, including the absence of effective medications to increase blood supply to the legs, reduce leg pain, improve walking ability and reduce the risk of major amputation.

Multiple lines of evidence suggest that metformin, a cheap and safe medication, promotes formation of new vessels, improves microcirculation and muscle function and limits pain. In preliminary studies, metformin significantly increased blood supply to the limb in a pre-clinical model of blocked leg arteries. We have also associated metformin prescription with a 4-fold reduction in the rate of major lower limb amputation in patients with blocked arteries.

 This placebo-controlled, randomised clinical trial will examine the efficacy of metformin in improving walking ability over 30 weeks in patients with blocked leg arteries. Positive findings from this trial will identify a new treatment for a problem that affects approximately 10% of adults aged over 50 years.

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