Medications Prescribed to 15 Million Diabetic Patients Increase Risk of Bladder Cancer

By Helen Holmes on August 14, 2012

Thiazolidinedione (TZDs) drug – one of the most popular medications prescribed to 15 million diabetic individuals, is associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. This was the finding of the new study involving 60,000 patients with type 2 diabetes in the United Kingdom.

This wasn’t the first time that TZDs were linked to bladder cancer. In fact, it was the main reason why the use of such drug was banned in Germany and France. The problem with past studies is that they’re too limited to provide substantial evidences. Most findings were based on small clinical data and the experiments conducted didn’t involved comparing the effects of TZDs with alternative therapies, explained Dr Ronac Mamtani of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Together with his team, Dr Mamtani set out a large study to look into the relationship between TZDs and bladder cancer. This TZDs and sulfonylureas (SUs) are considered as second-line therapies for people with type 2 diabetes. Their findings were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 

The researchers analysed the medical records of 60,000 type 2 diabetic patients taken from the Health Improvement Network (THIN) – a general practitioner medical database in the UK. 18,459 of the patients had TZD therapy while 41,396 were new users of SUs. 

Upon looking at the age, sex, smoking status, and haemoglobin A1C level, the researchers didn’t see any significant difference in terms of the hazard ratio (HR). However, they noted that the data was based on shorter period of drug usage. When they looked into duration of use, they found an increased risk of bladder cancer in patients who went through TZD therapy.

They found that those who had been using TZDs for more than five years increased their risk of developing bladder cancer by two to three-folds. The researchers also predicted, based on the data, that 170 out of 100,000 patients will develop the disease. The risk of bladder cancer among those who take SUs is lower. It is expected that 60 in 100,000 people will develop such type of cancer. 

Being one of the most common serious illnesses in the world, affecting 285 billion people, the study findings provide very essential information particularly on the safety of treatments used. There are plenty of things that doctors must take into consideration when prescribing medications. The study findings may be used as guide in making such decision, Dr Mamtani suggests. He also pointed out that doctors prescribing medications should be aware of any symptoms experienced by the patient which are related to any bladder disease. These include blood in the urine. Upon seeing the risks, physicians should therefore take necessary steps to further evaluate such issues, he added.

Actos, another prescription medication provided to diabetic patients, has also been associated to an increased risk of bladder cancer. 

The researchers are confident that their study will help medical practitioners choose the most appropriate medication for diabetic patients.

Source of this article:

Association Between Longer Therapy With Thiazolidinediones and Risk of Bladder Cancer: A Cohort Study, Oxford Journals

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