Diabetes Drug May Prevent Recurring Strokes

First Posted: Feb 17, 2016 08:02 PM EST

Could a diabetes drug prevent heart attack or recurring stroke?

New findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that the diabetes drug pioglitazone, sold as Actos, was shown to lower the risk of recurring stroke and heart attack by nearly a quarter when used in a five-year trial.

"This study represents a novel approach to prevent recurrent vascular events by reversing a specific metabolic abnormality thought to increase the risk for future heart attack or stroke," said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in a news release.

During the study, researchers at Yale University enrolled almost 4,000 people in seven countries at 167 institutions to receive either 45 milligram doses of the drug or a placebo. The patients in the study did not have diabetes, nor insulin-resistance for five years.

Findings revealed that 9 percent of patients who received the drug had either a stroke or a heart attack while close to 12 percent who received the placebo had a stroke or a heart attack. Just about 4 percent taking the medication developed diabetes when compared to 7 percent of placebo patients. 

Like all drugs, pioglitazone did not come without some side-effects, including weight gain, bone fracture and edema--a condition characterized by an excess of watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body. However, researchers are working to minimize these problems for the future, they say.

"After years of controversy, pioglitazone is now proven to have cardiovascular benefits," said Dr. Silvio Inzucchi, an endocrinologist at Yale University. "It's exciting to think that metabolic therapy may now be poised to take its place beside aspirin and cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering therapies for preventing stroke in non-diabetic patients."

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