Risk of Bladder Cancer Associated with Pioglitazone-Containing Medicines

Drug Alerts , Featured , News / December 13, 2016

As a result of an updated review, the FDA has concluded that use of the type 2 diabetes medicine pioglitazone (e.g. Actos) may be linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer. The labels of pioglitazone-containing medicines already contain warnings about this risk, and the FDA has approved label updates to describe the additional studies reviewed.

The FDA alerted the public about the possible risk of bladder cancer in September 2010 and June 2011 based on interim results from a 10-year epidemiologic study. FDA changed the labels of pioglitazone-containing medicines in August 2011 to include warnings about this risk, and required the manufacturer to modify and continue the 10-year study.

Pioglitazone is a sulfonlyurea oral hypoglycemic agent approved to improve blood sugar control, along with diet and exercise, in adults with type 2 diabetes. Pioglitazone works by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin, a natural hormone that helps control blood sugar levels. Untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious problems, including blindness, nerve and kidney damage, and heart disease.

Health care professionals should not use pioglitazone in patients with active bladder cancer, and should carefully consider the benefits and risks before using pioglitazone in patients with a history of bladder cancer.

Patients should contact their health care professionals if they experience any of the following signs or symptoms after starting pioglitazone, as these may be due to bladder cancer:

  • Blood or a red color in the urine
  • New or worsening urge to urinate
  • Pain when urinating

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