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New Study Finds Pioglitazone Linked to Bladder Cancer

A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in May of 2012 finds a link between the type 2 diabetes drug pioglitazone, also known as Actos, and an increased risk of bladder cancer. The research was conducted as part of a large cohort study of patients at 600 different medical practices in the UK that were listed on that nation’s general practice research database.

The pioglitazone study followed patients in the UK database for a period of 22 years, between January 1, 1988 and December 31, 2012 and looked at all patients who were prescribed their first anti-diabetic drug in this time period and compared the risk of bladder cancer with the use of a number of other anti-diabetic agents. Pioglitazone was among them.

The controversial link between pioglitazone, the active ingredient in drugs like Takeda Pharmaceutical’s Actos, ActosPlus MET, and ActosPlus MET XR, has been highlighted in recent years due to increased legal activity surrounding patients who claim to have developed bladder cancer as a result of taking pioglitazone as well as recent studies, some showing an up to 40% greater risk of developing bladder cancer associated with using pioglitazone. This has prompted the suspension of sales of the popular drug in France and the discouragement of its prescription in Germany and Luxembourg.

The BMJ study found that using pioglitazone in patients newly treated with oral hypoglycaemic drugs was associated with a significant increased risk of bladder cancer. The research also indicated that exclusive, continuous use of pioglitazone was associated with an 83% increase in the rate of bladder cancer development especially if the drug was taken for a period of 24 months or longer.

The published study addressed previous instances of little to no association being found between bladder cancer and pioglitazone consumption by stating that “Previous studies may have underestimated the association between pioglitazone and bladder cancer due to flaws in design.”