Systematic (IUPAC) name
Clinical data
Trade names Actos
Licence data EMA:, US FDA:
  • C
Legal status
Routes of
Pharmacokinetic data
Protein binding >99%
Metabolism liver (CYP2C8)
Biological half-life 3–7 hours
Excretion in bile
CAS Registry Number  Y
ATC code A10
PubChem CID:
DrugBank  Y
ChemSpider  Y
Chemical data
Formula C19H20N2O3S
Molecular mass 356.44 g/mol

Pioglitazone (brand name Actos) is a prescription drug of the class thiazolidinedione (TZD) with hypoglycemic (antihyperglycemic, antidiabetic) action to treat diabetes. Actos was the tenth-best selling drug in the U.S. in 2008, with sales exceeding $2.4 billion.[1] While pioglitazone does decrease blood sugar levels, studies on the main cardiovascular outcomes has not yielded statistically significant results.[2] Its cardiovascular safety profile compares favorably with rosiglitazone (Avandia), which was withdrawn after concerns about an increased risk of cardiac events. Pioglitazone has been found to be associated with bladder tumors and has been withdrawn in some countries.


  • Medical uses 1
  • Contraindications 2
  • Side effects 3
    • Bladder cancer 3.1
  • Drug interactions 4
  • Pharmacology 5
  • Society and culture 6
    • Brand names 6.1
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Medical uses

Pioglitazone is used for the treatment of diabetes mellitus type 2 either alone or in combination with a sulfonylurea, metformin, or insulin. There was, however, no statistically significant difference in the main outcomes studied.[2]

Pioglitazone has also been used to treat non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (fatty liver), but this use is presently considered experimental.[3]


Pioglitazone cannot be used in patients with a known hypersensitivity to pioglitazone, other thiazolidinediones or any of components of its pharmaceutical forms. It is ineffective and possibly harmful in diabetes mellitus type 1 and diabetic ketoacidosis.[4] Its safety in pregnancy, lactation (breastfeeding) and people under 18 is not established.

Given previous experiences with the related drug troglitazone, acute diseases of the liver are regarded as a contraindication for pioglitazone.

Pioglitazone and all other drugs of its class (thiazolidinediones) are absolutely contraindicated in patients with heart failure.[4]

Side effects

A press release by GlaxoSmithKline in February 2007 noted that there is a greater incidence of fractures of the upper arms, hands and feet in female diabetics given rosiglitazone compared with those given metformin or glyburide. The information was based on data from the ADOPT trial. Following release of this statement, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, the developer of pioglitazone (sold as Actos in many markets) admitted that it has similar implications for female patients.[5]

The risk of hypoglycemia is low in the absence of other drugs that lower blood glucose.

Pioglitazone can cause fluid retention and peripheral edema. As a result, it may precipitate congestive heart failure (which worsens with fluid overload in those at risk). It may cause anemia. Mild weight gain is common due to increase in subcutaneous adipose tissue. In studies, patients on pioglitazone had an increased proportion of upper respiratory tract infection, sinusitis, headache, myalgia and tooth problems.

Chronic administration of the drug has led to occasional instances of cholestatic hepatitis, reversible upon drug discontinuation.[6]

On July 30, 2007 an Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration concluded that the use of rosiglitazone for the treatment of type 2 diabetes was associated with a greater risk of "myocardial ischemic events" when compared to placebo, but when compared to other diabetes drugs, there was no increased risk. Pioglitazone is currently being reviewed. A meta-analysis released subsequently showed that pioglitazone reduced the risk of ischemic cardiac events rather than increased the risk, but increased CHF.[7] The PERISCOPE study compared pioglitazone with glimepiride in diabetics; atherosclerotic plaque volume was measured and followed over time. Glimepiride therapy had highly significant progression of plaque volume over time of 0.73 percent. In comparison, pioglitazone had a -0.16 percent regression in plaque volume. This is the first study to show that diabetic therapy slowed progression of atherosclerosis. Therapy with pioglitazone raised HDL, and lowered triglyceride and hsCRP; these are all beneficial effects on risk factors for coronary artery disease; however, to date, no oral anti-diabetic drug has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications.[8]

Bladder cancer

On June 9, 2011 the French Agency for the Safety of Health Products decided to withdraw pioglitazone in regards to high risk of bladder cancer.[9] This suspension was based on the results of an epidemiological study conducted by the French National Health Insurance. According to the results of the epidemiological study, the French agency found that patients, who were taking Actos for a long time to aid in type 2 diabetes mellitus, significantly increased risk of bladder cancer compared with patients who were taking other diabetes medications.[10] On June 10, 2011 Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices also advised doctors not to prescribe the medication until further investigation of the cancer risk had been conducted.[11]

On June 15, 2011 the U.S. FDA announced that pioglitazone use for more than one year may be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, and that the information about this risk will be added to the Warnings and Precautions section of the label for pioglitazone-containing medicines. The patient Medication Guide for these medicines will also be revised to include information on the risk of bladder cancer.[12]

Drug interactions

Combination with sulfonylureas or insulin reciprocally exponentiate risk of hypoglycemia. Therapy with pioglitazone increase the chance of pregnancy in individuals taking oral contraception.


Pioglitazone selectively stimulates the nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-γ) and to a lesser extent PPAR-α.[13][14] It modulates the transcription of the insulin-sensitive genes involved in the control of glucose and lipid metabolism in the muscle, adipose tissue, and the liver. As a result, pioglitazone reduces insulin resistance in the liver and peripheral tissues; increases the expense of insulin-dependent glucose; decreases withdrawal of glucose from the liver; reduces quantity of glucose, insulin and glycated hemoglobin in the bloodstream. Although not clinically significant, pioglitazone decreases the level of triglycerides and increases that of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) without changing low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and total cholesterol in patients with disorders of lipid metabolism, although statins are the drug of choice for this.

More recently, pioglitazone and other active TZDs have been shown to bind to the outer mitochondrial membrane protein mitoNEET with affinity comparable to that of pioglitazone for PPARγ.[15][16]

Society and culture

Brand names

Pioglitazone is marketed as trademarks Actos in the USA, Canada, the UK and Germany, Glustin in Europe, Glizone and Pioz in India by Zydus Cadila and USV Limited, respectively and Zactos in Mexico by Takeda Pharmaceuticals. On August 17, 2012 the US FDA announced its approval of the first generic version of Actos.[17]


  1. ^ Details for Actos.
  2. ^ a b Scheen, AJ (November 2012). "Outcomes and lessons from the PROactive study.". Diabetes research and clinical practice 98 (2): 175–86.  
  3. ^ Belfort, R; Harrison, SA; Brown, K; Darland, C; Finch, J; Hardies, J; Balas, B; Gastaldelli, A; et al. (November 2006). "A placebo-controlled trial of pioglitazone in subjects with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis".  
  4. ^ a b U.S. National Library of Medicine (2010). "ACTOS (pioglitazone hydrochloride) tablet". National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Takeda (March 2007). "Observation of an Increased Incidence of Fractures in Female Patients Who Received Long-Term Treatment with ACTOSO (pioglitazone HOI) Tablets for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  6. ^ R. Baselt, Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man, 8th edition, Biomedical Publications, Foster City, CA, 2008, pp. 1271-1272.
  7. ^ Lincoff AM, Wolski K, Nicholls SJ, Nissen SE (2007). "Pioglitazone and risk of cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of randomized trials". JAMA 298 (10): 1180–8.  
  8. ^ Nissen SE, Nicholls SJ, Wolski K, Nesto R, Kupfer S, Perez A, Jure H, De Larochelliere R, et al. (2008). "Comparison of pioglitazone vs glimepiride on progression of coronary atherosclerosis in patients with type 2 diabetes". JAMA 299 (13): 1561–73.  
  9. ^ http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2011/06/09/97001-20110609FILWWW00505-info-le-figaro-lantidiabetique-actos-retire-du-marche.php.
  10. ^ http://www.medical-reference.net/2011/12/france-and-germany-suspended-use-of.html | France and Germany Suspended Use of Actos for Bladder Cancer Risk|
  11. ^ Topham, James (June 10, 2011). "UPDATE 2-Germany joins France in suspending top Takeda drug". Reuters. 
  12. ^ http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm259150.htm | FDA Drug Safety Communication: Update to ongoing safety review of Actos (pioglitazone) and increased risk of bladder cancer|.
  13. ^ Gillies, PS; Dunn, CJ (August 2000). "Pioglitazone". Drugs 60 (2): 333–43; discussion 344–5.  
  14. ^ Smith U (September 2001). "Pioglitazone: mechanism of action". Int J Clin Pract Suppl (121): 13–8.  
  15. ^ Colca, JR; McDonald, WG; Waldon, DJ; Leone, JW; Lull, JM; Bannow, CA; Lund, ET; Mathews, WR (February 2004). "Identification of a novel mitochondrial protein ("mitoNEET") cross-linked specifically by a thiazolidinedione photoprobe" (PDF). Am. J. Physiol. Endocrinol. Metab. 286 (2): E252–60.  
  16. ^ Paddock, ML; Wiley, SE; Axelrod, HL; Cohen, AE; Roy, M; Abresch, EC; Capraro, D; Murphy, AN; et al. (September 2007). "MitoNEET is a uniquely folded 2Fe 2S outer mitochondrial membrane protein stabilized by pioglitazone". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104 (36): 14342–7.  
  17. ^ http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm315951.htm FDA approves first generic Actos to treat type 2 diabetes

External links

  • Official site
  • Pioglitazone FAQ
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine: Drug Information Portal - Pioglitazonee