A patient with phenformin-associated lactic acidosis was treated with insulin and showed marked improvement coincident with the expected onset of action of the insulin administered. Relative insulin deficiency was demonstrated although several phenomena characteristic of phenformin-associated lactic acidosis obscured its reflection in the usual indices. From data presented and a review of the literature the following pathogenesis is proposed for the observed metabolic derangement. A background of relative insulin deficiency would permit enhanced pyruvate (and hence lactate) formation from protein sources. Insulin deficiency would also lead to inhibition of pyruvate dehydrogenase which slows pyruvate removal. Phenformin accumulation (cf impaired renal function) further reduces pyruvate removal by decreasing its conversion to glucose, but in addition alters the redox state. For the lactic acidosis which results, insulin administration may thus constitute specific therapy.

This content is only available via PDF.