July 28, 2016
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Included as part of the PRECAUTIONS section.


Congestive Heart Failure

ACTOS, like other thiazolidinediones, can cause dose-related fluid retention when used alone or in combination with other antidiabetic medications and is most common when ACTOS is used in combination with insulin. Fluid retention may lead to or exacerbate congestive heart failure. Patients should be observed for signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure. If congestive heart failure develops, it should be managed according to current standards of care and discontinuation or dose reduction of ACTOS must be considered [see BOXED WARNING, CONTRAINDICATIONS, and ADVERSE REACTIONS].


Patients receiving ACTOS in combination with insulin or other antidiabetic medications (particularly insulin secretagogues such as sulfonylureas) may be at risk for hypoglycemia. A reduction in the dose of the concomitant antidiabetic medication may be necessary to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

Hepatic Effects

There have been postmarketing reports of fatal and non-fatal hepatic failure in patients taking ACTOS, although the reports contain insufficient information necessary to establish the probable cause. There has been no evidence of drug-induced hepatotoxicity in the ACTOS controlled clinical trial database to date [see ADVERSE REACTIONS].

Patients with type 2 diabetes may have fatty liver disease or cardiac disease with episodic congestive heart failure, both of which may cause liver test abnormalities, and they may also have other forms of liver disease, many of which can be treated or managed. Therefore, obtaining a liver test panel (serum alanine aminotransferase [ALT], aspartate aminotransferase [AST], alkaline phosphatase, and total bilirubin) and assessing the patient is recommended before initiating ACTOS therapy. In patients with abnormal liver tests, ACTOS should be initiated with caution.

Measure liver tests promptly in patients who report symptoms that may indicate liver injury, including fatigue, anorexia, right upper abdominal discomfort, dark urine or jaundice. In this clinical context, if the patient is found to have abnormal liver tests (ALT greater than 3 times the upper limit of the reference range), ACTOS treatment should be interrupted and investigation done to establish the probable cause. ACTOS should not be restarted in these patients without another explanation for the liver test abnormalities.

Patients who have serum ALT greater than three times the reference range with serum total bilirubin greater than two times the reference range without alternative etiologies are at risk for severe drug-induced liver injury, and should not be restarted on ACTOS. For patients with lesser elevations of serum ALT or bilirubin and with an alternate probable cause, treatment with ACTOS can be used with caution.

Urinary Bladder Tumors

Tumors were observed in the urinary bladder of male rats in the two-year carcinogenicity study [see Nonclinical Toxicology]. In two 3-year trials in which ACTOS was compared to placebo or glyburide, there were 16/3656 (0.44%) reports of bladder cancer in patients taking ACTOS compared to 5/3679 (0.14%) in patients not taking ACTOS. After excluding patients in whom exposure to study drug was less than one year at the time of diagnosis of bladder cancer, there were six (0.16%) cases on ACTOS and two (0.05%) cases on placebo.

A five-year interim report of an ongoing 10-year observational cohort study found a non-significant increase in the risk for bladder cancer in subjects ever exposed to ACTOS, compared to subjects never exposed to ACTOS (HR 1.2 [95% CI 0.9 -1.5]). Compared to never exposure, a duration of ACTOS therapy longer than 12 months was associated with an increase in risk (HR 1.4 [95% CI 0.9 -2.1]), which reached statistical significance after more than 24 months of ACTOS use (HR 1.4 [95% CI 1.03 -2.0]). Interim results from this study suggested that taking ACTOS longer than 12 months increased the relative risk of developing bladder cancer in any given year by 40% which equates to an absolute increase of three cases in 10,000 (from approximately seven in 10,000 [without ACTOS] to approximately 10 in 10,000 [with ACTOS]).

There are insufficient data to determine whether pioglitazone is a tumor promoter for urinary bladder tumors. Consequently, ACTOS should not be used in patients with active bladder cancer and the benefits of glycemic control versus unknown risks for cancer recurrence with ACTOS should be considered in patients with a prior history of bladder cancer.


In controlled clinical trials, edema was reported more frequently in patients treated with ACTOS than in placebo-treated patients and is dose-related [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. In postmarketing experience, reports of new onset or worsening edema have been received.

ACTOS should be used with caution in patients with edema. Because thiazolidinediones, including ACTOS, can cause fluid retention, which can exacerbate or lead to congestive heart failure, ACTOS should be used with caution in patients at risk for congestive heart failure. Patients treated with ACTOS should be monitored for signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure [see BOXED WARNING, WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS and PATIENT INFORMATION].


In PROactive (the Prospective Pioglitazone Clinical Trial in Macrovascular Events), 5238 patients with type 2 diabetes and a history of macrovascular disease were randomized to ACTOS (N=2605), force-titrated up to 45 mg daily or placebo (N=2633) in addition to standard of care. During a mean follow-up of 34.5 months, the incidence of bone fracture in females was 5.1% (44/870) for ACTOS versus 2.5% (23/905) for placebo. This difference was noted after the first year of treatment and persisted during the course of the study. The majority of fractures observed in female patients were nonvertebral fractures including lower limb and distal upper limb. No increase in the incidence of fracture was observed in men treated with ACTOS (1.7%) versus placebo (2.1%). The risk of fracture should be considered in the care of patients, especially female patients, treated with ACTOS and attention should be given to assessing and maintaining bone health according to current standards of care.

Macular Edema

Macular edema has been reported in postmarketing experience in diabetic patients who were taking ACTOS or another thiazolidinedione. Some patients presented with blurred vision or decreased visual acuity, but others were diagnosed on routine ophthalmologic examination.

Most patients had peripheral edema at the time macular edema was diagnosed. Some patients had improvement in their macular edema after discontinuation of the thiazolidinedione.

Patients with diabetes should have regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist according to current standards of care. Patients with diabetes who report any visual symptoms should be promptly referred to an ophthalmologist, regardless of the patient's underlying medications or other physical findings [see ADVERSE REACTIONS].


Therapy with ACTOS, like other thiazolidinediones, may result in ovulation in some premenopausal anovulatory women. As a result, these patients may be at an increased risk for pregnancy while taking ACTOS [see Use in Specific Populations]. This effect has not been investigated in clinical trials, so the frequency of this occurrence is not known. Adequate contraception in all premenopausal women treated with ACTOS is recommended.

Macrovascular Outcomes

There have been no clinical studies establishing conclusive evidence of macrovascular risk reduction with ACTOS or any other antidiabetic drug.

Patient Counseling Information

See FDA-Approved Patient Labeling (Medication Guide).

  • It is important to instruct patients to adhere to dietary instructions and to have blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin tested regularly. During periods of stress such as fever, trauma, infection, or surgery, medication requirements may change and patients should be reminded to seek medical advice promptly.
  • Patients who experience an unusually rapid increase in weight or edema or who develop shortness of breath or other symptoms of heart failure while on ACTOS should immediately report these symptoms to a physician.
  • Tell patients to promptly stop taking ACTOS and seek immediate medical advice if there is unexplained nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, anorexia, or dark urine as these symptoms may be due to hepatotoxicity.
  • Tell patients to promptly report any sign of macroscopic hematuria or other symptoms such as dysuria or urinary urgency that develop or increase during treatment as these may be due to bladder cancer.
  • Tell patients to take ACTOS once daily. ACTOS can be taken with or without meals. If a dose is missed on one day, the dose should not be doubled the following day.
  • When using combination therapy with insulin or other antidiabetic medications, the risks of hypoglycemia, its symptoms and treatment, and conditions that predispose to its development should be explained to patients and their family members.
  • Inform patients that therapy with ACTOS, like other thiazolidinediones, may result in ovulation in some premenopausal anovulatory women. As a result, these patients may be at an increased risk for pregnancy while taking ACTOS. Therefore, adequate contraception should be recommended for all premenopausal women who are prescribed ACTOS.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

A two-year carcinogenicity study was conducted in male and female rats at oral doses up to 63 mg/kg (approximately 14 times the maximum recommended human oral dose of 45 mg based on mg/m²). Drug-induced tumors were not observed in any organ except for the urinary bladder of male rats. Benign and/or malignant transitional cell neoplasms were observed in male rats at 4 mg/kg/day and above (approximately equal to the maximum recommended human oral dose based on mg/m²). Urinary calculi with subsequent irritation and hyperplasia were postulated as the mechanism for bladder tumors observed in male rats. A two-year mechanistic study in male rats utilizing dietary acidification to reduce calculi formation was completed in 2009. Dietary acidification decreased but did not abolish the hyperplastic changes in the bladder. The presence of calculi exacerbated the hyperplastic response to pioglitazone but was not considered the primary cause of the hyperplastic changes.

The relevance to humans of the bladder findings in the male rat cannot be excluded.

A two-year carcinogenicity study was also conducted in male and female mice at oral doses up to 100 mg/kg/day (approximately 11 times the maximum recommended human oral dose based on mg/m²). No drug-induced tumors were observed in any organ.

Pioglitazone hydrochloride was not mutagenic in a battery of genetic toxicology studies, including the Ames bacterial assay, a mammalian cell forward gene mutation assay (CHO/HPRT and AS52/XPRT), an in vitro cytogenetics assay using CHL cells, an unscheduled DNA synthesis assay, and an in vivo micronucleus assay.

No adverse effects upon fertility were observed in male and female rats at oral doses up to 40 mg/kg pioglitazone hydrochloride daily prior to and throughout mating and gestation (approximately nine times the maximum recommended human oral dose based on mg/m²).

Use In Specific Populations


Pregnancy Category C

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of ACTOS in pregnant women. Animal studies show increased rates of post-implantation loss, delayed development, reduced fetal weights, and delayed parturition at doses 10 to 40 times the maximum recommended human dose. ACTOS should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Clinical Considerations

Abnormal blood glucose concentrations during pregnancy are associated with a higher incidence of congenital anomalies, as well as increased neonatal morbidity and mortality. Most experts recommend the use of insulin during pregnancy to maintain blood glucose concentrations as close to normal as possible for patients with diabetes.

Animal Data

In animal reproductive studies, pregnant rats and rabbits received pioglitazone at doses up to approximately 17 (rat) and 40 (rabbit) times the maximum recommended human oral dose (MRHD) based on body surface area (mg/m²); no teratogenicity was observed. Increases in embryotoxicity (increased postimplantation losses, delayed development, reduced fetal weights, and delayed parturition) occurred in rats that received oral doses approximately 10 or more times the MRHD (mg/m² basis). No functional or behavioral toxicity was observed in rat offspring. When pregnant rats received pioglitazone during late gestation and lactation, delayed postnatal development, attributed to decreased body weight, occurred in rat offspring at oral maternal doses approximately two or more times the MRHD (mg/m² basis). In rabbits, embryotoxicity occurred at oral doses approximately 40 times the MRHD (mg/m² basis).

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether ACTOS is secreted in human milk. Pioglitazone is secreted in the milk of lactating rats. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, and because of the potential for ACTOS to cause serious adverse reactions in nursing infants, a decision should be made to discontinue nursing or discontinue ACTOS, taking into account the importance of ACTOS to the mother.

Pediatric Use

Safety and effectiveness of ACTOS in pediatric patients have not been established.

ACTOS is not recommended for use in pediatric patients based on adverse effects observed in adults, including fluid retention and congestive heart failure, fractures, and urinary bladder tumors [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Geriatric Use

A total of 92 patients (15.2%) treated with ACTOS in the three pooled 16-to 26-week double-blind, placebo-controlled, monotherapy trials were ≥ 65 years old and two patients (0.3%) were ≥ 75 years old. In the two pooled 16-to 24-week add-on to sulfonylurea trials, 201 patients (18.7%) treated with ACTOS were ≥ 65 years old and 19 (1.8%) were ≥ 75 years old. In the two pooled 16-to 24-week add-on to metformin trials, 155 patients (15.5%) treated with ACTOS were ≥ 65 years old and 19 (1.9%) were ≥ 75 years old. In the two pooled 16-to 24-week add-on to insulin trials, 272 patients (25.4%) treated with ACTOS were ≥ 65 years old and 22 (2.1%) were ≥ 75 years old.

In PROactive, 1068 patients (41.0%) treated with ACTOS were ≥ 65 years old and 42 (1.6%) were ≥ 75 years old.

In pharmacokinetic studies with pioglitazone, no significant differences were observed in pharmacokinetic parameters between elderly and younger patients [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Although clinical experiences have not identified differences in effectiveness and safety between the elderly ( ≥ 65 years) and younger patients, these conclusions are limited by small sample sizes for patients ≥ 75 years old.

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 11/25/2013


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