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Diabetes Drug Actos May Cut Heart Risk

Diabetes Raises Heart Disease Risks; Actos May Lower Those Risks
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 5, 2006 -- The diabetes drug Actos may trump an older diabetes drug at lowering heart disease risk in diabetes patients.

Diabetes makes heart attacks and heart disease more likely.

A new study compares two diabetes drugs -- Actos and glimepiride -- in 462 adults with type 2 diabetes.

The key finding: Patients taking Actos had less wall thickening of their carotid arteries -- which bring blood through the neck to the brain -- over 18 months.

"Additional data needs to be brought to bear," researcher Theodore Mazzone, MD, says in a news release.

"However," he adds, "this is very helpful for suggesting that [Actos] could be a useful, novel approach for managing cardiovascular risk in patients with diabetes."

Mazzone works at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School.

The study appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Different Methods of Action

The study's two drugs work differently.

Actos boosts the body's sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. Glimepiride, sold generically and as Amaryl, spurs the body to make more insulin.

Actos was approved by the FDA in 1999. Glimepiride was approved in 1995.

Mazzone's team studied a racially diverse group of Chicago-area diabetes patients.

When the study started, the patients were 60 years old, on average. They had "good" blood sugar control and most were using diabetes drugs, the researchers note.

Most patients were also taking blood pressure drugs and cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. They were free to keep taking those drugs during the study.

Before-and-After Images

The researchers gave the patients Actos or glimepiride for 18 months.

Before-and-after ultrasound images show less thickening of the carotid artery walls in the Actos group over 18 months.

The carotid artery wall's thickness is a measure of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), the researchers note.

"The less the thickening, and the slower the rate of thickening, the less risk of heart attack in general," Mazzone says in a university news release.

Few side effects -- and no heart-related deaths -- were reported in either group. However, both drugs can have side effects.

Patients taking Actos gained slightly more weight (7 pounds) than those taking glimepiride (about 2 pounds), on average.

The study was funded by Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, which makes Actos. Takeda is a WebMD sponsor.

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