Actos May Prevent Diabetes

Pioglitazone reduces risk in 70 percent of pre-diabetics

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There's great news for the millions of Americans who are at the highest risk for diabetes: taking a pill once a day may prevent diabetes.

Results from a new study show that pioglitazone (Actos) can prevent type 2 diabetes in 72 percent of people with pre-diabetes - when someone has blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Researchers also found that pioglitazone caused a 31 percent decrease in the rate of thickening of the carotid artery, which prevents damage to blood vessels, thus reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and vascular disease.

dailyRx Insight: Taking Actos once a day may prevent diabetes.

These findings are extremely important for the estimated 40 million people with pre-diabetes in the United States. No study has ever shown such success in preventing diabetes in high-risk individuals.

For their study, Ralph DeFronzo, M.D., from the University of Texas Health Science Center, and his team assigned 602 participants to take either pioglitazone or a placebo. They found that 48 percent of patients who took pioglitazone returned to normal glucose tolerance levels - meaning they became less resistant to insulin and had lower levels of blood sugar.

As insulin resistance and high blood sugar are hallmarks of diabetes, these patients risk of developing type 2 diabetes was significantly reduced. However, patients who took pioglitazone experienced some side effects including weight gain and swelling.

Nearly 26 million individuals are affected by diabetes in the United States each year, with about seven million people going undiagnosed. Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease with no cure in which a person has high blood sugar because the body does not produce enough insulin (Type 1) or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced (Type 2). There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational. Several groups of oral drugs, are effective for Type 2, such as Glucophage, Glucotrol, and Prandin, among many others. The therapeutic combination in Type 2 may eventually include injected insulin as symptoms worsen. Along with the presence of physical symptoms, a common blood test known as the A1c can test for the disease.

Important note: The FDA notified healthcare professionals and patients that the Agency is reviewing data from an ongoing, ten-year epidemiological study designed to evaluate whether pioglitazone (Actos) is associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. Findings from studies in animals and humans suggest this is a potential safety risk that needs further study. At this time, FDA has not concluded that pioglitazone increases the risk of bladder cancer. Its review is ongoing, and the Agency will update the public when it has additional information. Healthcare professionals should continue to follow the recommendations in the drug label when prescribing pioglitazone. Patients should continue taking pioglitazone unless told otherwise by their healthcare professional. Patients who are concerned about the possible risks associated with using pioglitazone should talk to their healthcare professional.

The study is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 24, 2011
Last Updated:
March 29, 2011