Are Diabetes Medications Causing Heart Problems?

For years it has been a question whether common diabetes medications are actually causing heart problems for those it is administered to. Six million Americans could be at risk already, and that number is growing every year. This means extensive research is required on this worrying side effect.

Heart problems like congestive heart failure and other conditions such as pulmonary edema could actually be something the diabetes medications, pioglitazone and rosiglitazone, are increasing in patients already diagnosed with these conditions.

But the proof is in the facts, so let’s breakdown the following steps researchers took to believe that in treating diabetes with the above medication we are actually creating bigger issues in our bodies.

Preexisting Conditions

According to the Mayo Clinic these two medications should not be taken with patients who have known preexisting conditions.

They say that conditions such as left ventricle dysfunction or chronic renal insufficiency are not responding well with those medications mentioned above in the thiazolidinedione’s drug class.

What does this mean for these patients? Well as they already suffer from not being able to take metformin, another common diabetes drug, these two newer drugs are now also out the window.

Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is a problem where the heart does not pump enough blood throughout the body. This eventually can eventually lead to pulmonary edema where the lungs fill with fluid. At present roughly 3 million Americans are suffering with this condition.

Diabetes (type 2) patients who take thiazolidinediones and have this heart problem have had an increased death rate due to the fluid overload and increased heart deterioration.

University Of Texas Research

The Southwestern Medical Center located in Dallas Texas back in 2003 conducted tests on six patients, all around the age of 69, suffering from type-2 diabetes, and experienced symptoms that led them to visit the emergency room.

Shortness of breath, swollen feet, and weight gain – which coincidently are all signs of congestive heart failure, developed in a time span of 1 to 16 months after being on one of the two diabetes medications.

When stopping the dosage of pioglitazone and rosiglitazone the patients’ symptoms subsided.

RECORD study

This study on rosiglitazone published in a scientific journal called The Lancet, was conducted on 4447 patients with type 2 diabetes and heart conditions. Follow-up exams and tests were administered for up to seven years and in most cases patients ended up under hospital care or dying due to cardiovascular issues.

It was observed that most glucose lowering drugs, such as those that patients with type 2 diabetes take, will cause an increase in heart issues to those with preexisting conditions.

New England Journal of Medicine

Another meta-study published in the above journal about the specific rosiglitazone drug – Avandia – was conducted in a 2007. Over a period of 24 weeks, 42 trials were conducted with the patients having an average age of 56. The results were that of shock when there was a conclusive outcome of increased myocardial infraction and risk of death relating to heart issues.

Even though the study was limited it only showed more evidence of this deathly side effect.

JAMA Internal Medicine

This archive has several articles on the link between heart failure and diabetes medications, but one stuck out above the rest. In 2010, using the Glaxo-Smith-Kline clinical trial registry, there was a pattern shown across 56 trials indicating that an increase in myocardial infraction but not for cardiovascular mortality is created when taking diabetes medication.

So even fifteen years down the road these medications, despite the risks, are still being released to patients out on the market. Starting around 2007 there has been a greater awareness of the dangers but the warnings are still new to some patients.

Because the studies conducted have been very specific to an older age range, other data needs to be collected to determine exactly how to classify who should not be taking diabetes medications. More research is necessary to increase awareness and keep type-2 diabetes patients with heart conditions out of harm’s way.


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Rebecca Borchers is currently studying medicine at UCF College of Medicine. After graduating, she plans on focusing on providing care for professions most at-risk for heart health problems including truck drivers, and even wishes to get certified to provide DOT Physicals. To find already certified professionals in your area, she recommends going to Driver Physicals.