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Diabetes drug linked to increased risk of heart failure claims new research

New research claims that rosiglitazone, a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes, is associated with an increased risk of heart failure and death among older people compared to a similar drug called pioglitazone.

Researchers in Canada compared the risk of heart attack, heart failure and death in people treated with rosiglitazone and pioglitazone. They identified nearly 40,000 people aged 66 years and older who started treatment with either rosiglitazone or pioglitazone between April 2002 and March 2008.

Confirmation of previous studies

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: "This is a well-designed retrospective study of older people with Type 2 diabetes using rosiglitazone or pioglitazone. Both drugs carry an increased risk of heart failure. The findings confirm previous results of other studies showing that pioglitazone is associated with a reduced risk of heart failure and death but not heart attack compared to rosiglitazone. 

“This study adds to the overall body of evidence about the effects of these drugs, yet the claim that one drug is safer than the other remains inconclusive. Perhaps longer term follow-up studies investigating the effectiveness and safety of drugs in clinical practice would be useful.  “The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) and the European Medicines Agency state that rosiglitazone is a safe and effective treatment for those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  Glitazones are not presently recommended for people who have had, or who are at high risk of having, heart failure or if people are at risk of bone fractures. If you are concerned about taking rosiglitazone, you should contact your GP or healthcare team."

What the drugs do

Rosiglitazone and pioglitazone belong to a class of drugs called thiazolidinediones and help to control blood glucose levels but both drugs can also cause side effects including weight gain, fluid retention and heart failure.

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