Controversial Evidence On Value Of Pioglitazone (Actos) For Type 2 Diabetes

Clinical Question:

Is pioglitazone (Actos) useful in the management of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus?

Bottom Line:

Based only on studies provided by and conducted directly by the drug manufacturer, this review reports a significantly reduced incidence only of the composite outcome of death, myocardial infarction, and stroke with pioglitazone (Actos) therapy. None of the same outcomes were significantly reduced on an individual basis. An earlier review of pioglitazone therapy in type 2 diabetes by the Cochrane Collaboration of all available published and peer-reviewed clinical trials found no significant evidence of improved patient-oriented outcomes. Similar to the other thiazolidinedione, rosiglitazone (Avandia), pioglitazone also increases the risk of serious heart failure in type 2 diabetics.


Lincoff AM, Wolski K, Nicholls SJ, Nissen SE. Pioglitazone and risk of cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. A meta-analysis of randomized trials. JAMA 2007;298:1180-88.

Study Design:

Meta-analysis (randomized controlled trials)


Pioglitazone is widely used for glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, but evidence is mixed regarding the influence of medications of this class on cardiovascular outcomes. The authors evaluated the effect of pioglitazone on ischemic cardiovascular events. A database containing individual patient-level time-to-event data collected during pioglitazone clinical trials was transferred from the drug’s manufacturer for independent analysis. Trials were included if they were randomized, double-blinded, and controlled with placebo or active comparator. The primary outcome was a composite of death, myocardial infarction, or stroke. Secondary outcome measures included the incidence of serious heart failure. A fixed-effects approach was used to combine the estimates across the duration strata and statistical heterogeneity across all the trials was tested with the I2 statistic. A total of 19 trials enrolling 16 390 patients were analyzed.

Study drug treatment duration ranged from 4 months to 3.5 years. Death, myocardial infarction, or stroke occurred in 375 of 8554 patients (4.4%) receiving pioglitazone and 450 of 7836 patients (5.7%) receiving control therapy (hazard ratio [HR], 0.82; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.72-0.94; P = .005). Progressive separation of time-to-event curves became apparent after approximately 1 year of therapy. Individual components of the primary end point were all reduced by a similar magnitude with pioglitazone treatment, with HRs ranging from 0.80 to 0.92. Serious heart failure was reported in 200 (2.3%) of the pioglitazone-treated patients and 139 (1.8%) of the control patients (HR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.14-1.76; P = .002). The magnitude and direction of the favorable effect of pioglitazone on ischemic events and unfavorable effect on heart failure was homogeneous across trials of different durations, for different comparators, and for patients with or without established vascular disease. There was no evidence of heterogeneity across the trials for either end point (I2 = 0%; P = .87 for the composite end point and I2 = 0%; P = .97 for heart failure).