Type 2 diabetes medication may increase risk of heart complications

The medication rosiglitazone has been proven effective in reducing the blood sugar of patients with type 2 diabetes. However, it has also been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. A new study has confirmed these risks, and its authors warn that there may be safer alternatives.

A team of researchers from the University of East Anglia in the UK compared the effects of rosiglitazone to a similar drug known as pioglitazone. Both are part of the thiazolidinedione family of medications, and it has been suggested that both may increase the risk of heart disease.

For the study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers analyzed the results of 16 previous clinical trials involving 810,000 individuals taking one of the two medications.

Their findings show that rosiglitazone increases the risk of heart attack by 16 percent, congestive heart failure by 23 percent and death by 14 percent, compared to pioglitazone.

While this medication has been banned in Europe, it is still available in the U.S. and Canada on a restricted basis. The researchers said that nearly 4 million people in the U.S. take rosiglitazone each year, which makes their findings particularly concerning. They added that if a doctor determines a thiazolidinedione medication would be best for their patient, they should first consider pioglitazone.

"Our findings have important implications," the researchers wrote in their report. "Rosiglitazone is still available on a restricted basis in the United States and Canada. However, for patients who need thiazolidinedione treatment, continued use of rosiglitazone may lead to excess heart attacks, heart failure and mortality, compared with pioglitazone."

They added that the high numbers of type 2 diabetes patients who continue to take rosiglitazone represent a major public health risk.
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