There are several oral medications that can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition. Thiazolidinediones are one class of drugs, and they work by making cells more sensitive to insulin.
Actos, which is also known as pioglitazone, is part of the thiazolidinedione family. More than 10 million people worldwide have taken Actos, making it the best-selling diabetes drug.
Unfortunately, Actos complications have been linked to bladder cancer, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to anyone taking Actos.
In 2010, bladder cancer took the lives of 14,680 people in the United States.
And for people with diabetes, it’s a double whammy because they are already at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer.
The American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society met in 2009 and found that diabetes (mostly type 2) increases the risk of cancer of the liver, pancreas, endometrium, colon/rectum and bladder.
Doctors diagnose bladder cancer through urine tests, cystoscopy (a tube inserted in the urethra) or biopsy. They check to see if there are cancer cells, and then determine the course of action.
You may want to see a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Blood in urine
- Frequent urination
- Pain while urinating
- Back pain
- Pain in lower abdomen
Several studies have shown a link between Actos and bladder cancer, including a long-term study by Takeda, which manufactures Actos. Results from the first five years of the 10-year study were released in 2010, showing a 40 percent increase in the risk for bladder cancer in patients who take Actos for more than a year.
A French National Health Insurance Plan study also found an increased risk for bladder cancer. In that study, 1.5 million diabetes patients were monitored for four years.
With such strong evidence, action had to be taken. On July 11, 2011, Germany and France pulled Actos from their shelves.
In the United States, however, the FDA has decided to take a wait-and-see approach.
Alanna Ritchie is a writer for Drugwatch.com. An English major, she is an accomplished technical and creative writer.