A recent study published in the British Medical Journal once again demonstrates a connection between use of the diabetes drug Actos (pioglitazone) and bladder cancer. Furthermore, a patient who has used the medication for two years or longer is almost twice as likely to develop the disease.
Type II diabetics already face an elevated risk of this painful form of cancer – and taking Actos exacerbates the situation. Despite this, Actos remains a nice little cash cow for Japanese drug manufacturer Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Even with the growing number of lawsuits over Actos, sales in the U.S. during 2011 still totaled $3.4 billion (down from $3.5 billion the previous year).
Another study in Canada also associated Actos with an elevated risk of bladder cancer. According to the lead author, Dr. Jeffery Johnson of the University of Alberta School of Public Health, part of risk may have to do with the possibility that pioglitazone causes the formation of crystals in the bladder. These crystals in turn cause irritation, leading to the formation of tumors.
Actos has been banned in Germany and France, and medical authorities in the U.K. are having some serious questions about it. In the U.S. however, there have been no plans for recall of the drug. There is an ongoing study at the FDA and they have “updated drug labels for the pioglitazone-containing medicines to include safety information.” So far however, they have not found reason to pull the product from the market.
Azoulay, Laurent, et. al. “The Use of Pioglitazone and the Risk of Bladder Cancer in People With Type 2 Diabetes: Nested Case-Control Study.” British Medical Journal, 31 May 2012.
Food and Drug Administration. “Actos (pioglitazone): Ongoing Safety Review - Potential Increased Risk of Bladder Cancer (Updated 4 August 2011). Available at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm226257.htm .
IMS Health. “Top U.S. Pharmaceuticals by Spending.” Available at http://www.imshealth.com/deployedfiles/ims/Global/Content/Corporate/Press%20Room/Top-Line%20Market%20Data%20&%20Trends/2011%20Top-line%20Market%20Data/Top_Products_by_Sales.pdf .
Learn more about Actos Lawsuits