Health Watch -- Diabetes Drugs

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Two drugs commonly prescribed to treat diabetes may have potentially deadly side effects.

More than six million Americans with type 2 diabetes take the drugs pioglitazone and rosiglitazone. But researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have found that these drugs can cause congestive heart failure or make congestive heart failure even worse in some patients.

The researchers noted this problem after studying the cases of patients who came to the emergency room with shortness of breath, weight gain and swollen feet – all symptoms of congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema, which occurs with congestive heart failure. The patients were taking these drugs to treat their diabetes. In some cases, the patients had just had their doses increased. After the patients quit taking the drugs and were treated with diuretics, they no longer had symptoms of congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart doesn’t pump properly, so that blood doesn’t circulate adequately. One of the most severe effects of congestive heart failure is pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs. People who also have type 2 diabetes are more likely to die of congestive heart failure.

Dr. Asra Kermani, a UT Southwestern diabetes expert and the study’s lead author, says that the drugs were already not recommended for patients with more serious cases of heart problems, but this research shows that the drugs may not be safe for patients with even mild dysfunction in the left ventricle.