Diabetes Drug Could Increase Risk of Bladder Cancer

Did you know that people suffering from type 2 diabetes tend to put themselves at a higher risk for bladder cancer if they take pioglitazone—a drug used to control blood sugar? According to a Canadian study, taking this anti-diabetes med may put people at double the risk.

“We believe physicians, patients, and regulatory agencies should be aware of this association when assessing the overall risks and benefits of this therapy,” lead researcher Laurent Azoulay said.

Azoulay, an assistant professor at McGill University in Montreal, added, “The association between the use of pioglitazone and bladder cancer is controversial, with several studies reporting conflicting results, from modest increased risks to no association.”

In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration also found the link between pioglitazone and bladder cancer, requiring drug makers like Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America to include a warning on its labels regarding the risk of bladder cancer.

Pioglitazone’s sister drug, rosiglitazone, has also been tied to increased heart disease risks. Both anti-diabetes drugs are used to control blood sugar levels and are generally recommended for type 2 diabetes patients.

As the cumulative dosage of pioglitazone increases, the risk of bladder cancer also rises. Researchers revealed that for those taking the drug for at least two years, or a total of 28,000 milligrams or more, the risk of bladder cancer grew 88 percent in 137 cases out of 100,000 patients.

With these anti-diabetes drugs under fire, endocrinologist Dr. Spyros Mezitis of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City stressed the “need to be more careful with the use of this medication.”

“If there are more studies like this, we will not be using this medication,” Dr. Mezitis added. “We have to tailor treatment to each patient, and there are other ways of controlling blood sugar.”

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