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Diabetes drug warning

Worrying news...it seems a drug used widely to treat diabetes could raise the risk of developing cancer.

Recently published data shows problems with the anti-diabetic drug pioglitazone; this is used widely to help control blood sugar levels in people who have type 2 diabetes. Information published by the BMJ (British Medical Journal) shows that taking the drug is linked to a 63 per cent increased risk of cancer of the bladder.

Over one million prescriptions for pioglitazone were given out in England in 2014 (the last figures available).

The news has come after a study, funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research, was carried out by researchers from the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University, both based in Montreal, Canada. They looked at around 150,000 people taking pioglitazone over a 14 year period to 2014. The results showed that this group were 63% more likely to have been diagnosed with bladder cancer than those who were taking other oral drugs (not insulin) for diabetes. They also reported that the risk heightened with increasing duration of use and dose.
“The results of this large population based study indicate that pioglitazone is associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer,” said Dr Laurent Azoulay, Centre for Clinical Epidemiology at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.
The news has been carried by many national news papers and it is of course alarming. However, it is important to note that despite the figures, the overall risk of bladder cancer in the research was low; a total of 121 cases of bladder cancer for every 10,000 people taking pioglitazone for ten years, compared with 89 cases for people taking other diabetes drugs.

This puts it more into perspective and generally the advice right now seems to be that for those who respond well to this drug, the benefits in terms of diabetes control are thought to outweight the risks.
Obviously though if you are taking pioglitazone and have concerns, talk to your doctor and immediately report any changes in your health especially with urination.

Type 2 diabetes affects 3.3 million people in England and Wales and there is no cure, but controlling it with drugs is vital. At its worst, it can lead to blindness, stoke, kidney failure and even limb amputation.

Bladder cancer is diagnosed in around 10,000 people every year and of these, half die from the disease.

Other research is going on involving medication and diabetes, and there are some reported contradictory findings on this subject.


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