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How Effective Is Pioglitazone for Diabetes?

By Lee Johnson
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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Using pioglitazone for diabetes is a fairly effective treatment but only in patients suffering from type two diabetes. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the use of pioglitazone for adults suffering from type two diabetes, provided that it is used in conjunction with diet and exercise, to regulate the body’s glucose levels. The drug is often the only possible course of treatment for some patients suffering from diabetes, and it has had positive results in clinical trials.

Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to produce the required amount of insulin for the body to correctly use glucose. Insulin works like a "key" to the “door” of the cells, and allows glucose to provide fuel to the body. Two types of diabetes exist — type one and type two. Type one diabetes occurs when the cells that are supposed to produce insulin have been destroyed, resulting the body producing very little to no insulin. The type two disease occurs when insulin production is reduced, leading to some excess glucose in the blood.

Pioglitazone is a drug specifically designed for use with diabetic patients and is in a class of anti-diabetes medicines known as thiazolidinediones. These drugs are specifically for patients who are suffering from type two diabetes. Using pioglitazone for diabetes works because the drug reduces the amount of glucose present in the patient’s blood. It works by making the body’s insulin receptors more receptive to insulin, however, the patient’s pancreas must produce some insulin for the drug to work. This is why pioglitazone for diabetes is only an effective treatment when the patient has type two diabetes.

The effectiveness of pioglitazone for diabetes has been shown through clinical trials, but the drug has also been shown to increase the patient’s risk of developing bladder cancer. Both the FDA and the EMA have, however, deemed this risk insignificant when compared with the benefits of the drug. The drug generally will not be prescribed to anyone who has suffered from bladder cancer or who has a family history of bladder cancer. Despite the fact that the drug reduces levels of glucose in the blood as well as the amount produced by the liver, it is only ever prescribed alongside diet and exercise. Pioglitazone for diabetes is not an effective treatment on its own, and mustn’t be relied upon solely to keep glucose levels low.

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