Article

The use of pioglitazone and the risk of bladder cancer in people with type 2 diabetes: nested case-control study. BMJ 344:e3645

Centre for Clinical Epidemiology, Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital, 3755 Côte Sainte-Catherine, H-425.1, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3T 1E2.
BMJ (online) (Impact Factor: 17.45). 05/2012; 344(may30 3):e3645. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e3645
Source: PubMed
ABSTRACT
To determine if the use of pioglitazone is associated with an increased risk of incident bladder cancer in people with type 2 diabetes.
Retrospective cohort study using a nested case-control analysis.
Over 600 general practices in the United Kingdom contributing to the general practice research database.
The cohort consisted of people with type 2 diabetes who were newly treated with oral hypoglycaemic agents between 1 January 1988 and 31 December 2009. All incident cases of bladder cancer occurring during follow-up were identified and matched to up to 20 controls on year of birth, year of cohort entry, sex, and duration of follow-up. Exposure was defined as ever use of pioglitazone, along with measures of duration and cumulative dosage.
Risk of incident bladder cancer associated with use of pioglitazone.
The cohort included 115,727 new users of oral hypoglycaemic agents, with 470 patients diagnosed as having bladder cancer during follow-up (rate 89.4 per 100,000 person years). The 376 cases of bladder cancer that were diagnosed beyond one year of follow-up were matched to 6699 controls. Overall, ever use of pioglitazone was associated with an increased rate of bladder cancer (rate ratio 1.83, 95% confidence interval 1.10 to 3.05). The rate increased as a function of duration of use, with the highest rate observed in patients exposed for more than 24 months (1.99, 1.14 to 3.45) and in those with a cumulative dosage greater than 28,000 mg (2.54, 1.05 to 6.14).
The use of pioglitazone is associated with an increased risk of incident bladder cancer among people with type 2 diabetes.

Full-text

Available from: Samy Suissa
The use of pioglitazone and the risk of bladder cancer
in people with type 2 diabetes: nested case-control
study
OPEN ACCESS
Laurent Azoulay assistant professor
1 2
, Hui Yin statistician
1
, Kristian B Filion assistant professor
1 3
,
Jonathan Assayag graduate student
1
, Agnieszka Majdan endocrinologist
4
, Michael N Pollak
oncologist and professor
2
, Samy Suissa professor
5
1
Centre for Clinical Epidemiology, Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital, 3755 Côte Sainte-Catherine, H-425.1, Montreal, Quebec, Canada,
H3T 1E2;
2
Department of Oncology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada;
3
Division of Clinical Epidemiology, McGill University, Montreal;
4
Division of Endocrinology, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal;
5
Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, McGill University,
Montreal
Abstract
Objective To determine if the use of pioglitazone is associated with an
increased risk of incident bladder cancer in people with type 2 diabetes.
Design Retrospective cohort study using a nested case-control analysis.
Setting Over 600 general practices in the United Kingdom contributing
to the general practice research database.
Participants The cohort consisted of people with type 2 diabetes who
were newly treated with oral hypoglycaemic agents between 1 January
1988 and 31 December 2009. All incident cases of bladder cancer
occurring during follow-up were identified and matched to up to 20
controls on year of birth, year of cohort entry, sex, and duration of
follow-up. Exposure was defined as ever use of pioglitazone, along with
measures of duration and cumulative dosage.
Main outcome measure Risk of incident bladder cancer associated
with use of pioglitazone.
Results The cohort included 115 727 new users of oral hypoglycaemic
agents, with 470 patients diagnosed as having bladder cancer during
follow-up (rate 89.4 per 100 000 person years). The 376 cases of bladder
cancer that were diagnosed beyond one year of follow-up were matched
to 6699 controls. Overall, ever use of pioglitazone was associated with
an increased rate of bladder cancer (rate ratio 1.83, 95% confidence
interval 1.10 to 3.05). The rate increased as a function of duration of
use, with the highest rate observed in patients exposed for more than
24 months (1.99, 1.14 to 3.45) and in those with a cumulative dosage
greater than 28 000 mg (2.54, 1.05 to 6.14).
Conclusion The use of pioglitazone is associated with an increased
risk of incident bladder cancer among people with type 2 diabetes.
Introduction
The safety of pioglitazone, an oral antidiabetic agent in the
thiazolidinedione class, is controversial. Although pioglitazone
is effective at reducing glycated haemoglobin (HbA
1c
) levels
and may decrease the risk of cardiovascular events,
1 2
it has also
been associated with weight gain and an increased risk of
congestive heart failure.
1
Although available data are limited,
there is now some evidence suggesting that pioglitazone may
be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer.
3-5
In the
Prospective Pioglitazone Clinical Trial in Macrovascular Events
(PROactive) trial, the reported incidence of bladder cancer was
higher among participants randomised to pioglitazone than
among those randomised to placebo (14 v 6 cases), although
this failed to reach statistical significance (P=0.069).
1
However,
it was later reported that one case in the placebo group showed
benign histology,
6
and the exclusion of this case resulted in a
statistically significant increased risk of bladder cancer (14 v 5
cases, relative risk 2.83, 95% confidence interval 1.02 to 7.85).
7
With respect to observational studies, a signal was observed in
the US Food and Drug Administration adverse event reporting
system.
3
Furthermore, an interim analysis of an ongoing US
cohort did not find an association between pioglitazone and
bladder cancer overall but found a 40% increased risk in patients
who used the drug for more than 24 months.
4
In contrast, a
modest increased risk was observed overall in a French cohort.
5
Correspondence to: L Azoulay laurent.azoulay@mcgill.ca
Extra material supplied by the author (see http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e3645?tab=related#webextra)
Baseline characteristics of thiazolidinedione exposure groups among controls
Rosiglitazone cumulative duration of use and cumulative dosage and risk of bladder cancer
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BMJ 2012;344:e3645 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e3645 (Published 31 May 2012) Page 1 of 11
Research
RESEARCH
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Based on these findings, France decided to suspend the sale of
pioglitazone, whereas Germany and Luxembourg recommended
that doctors should not start new patients on this drug.
8
After
carrying out a review of the safety of pioglitazone, the European
Medicines Agency decided to maintain the marketing
authorisation of the drug,
8
whereas the FDA and Health Canada
added warnings of a possible increased risk of bladder cancer
in the product monograph.
9 10
Two subsequently published
Taiwanese studies found no statistically significant association
between pioglitazone and bladder cancer.
11 12
All of the aforementioned studies included prevalent users of
antidiabetic drugs, which may have underestimated the strength
of the association between pioglitazone and bladder
cancer.
4 5 11 12
As available data on the reported association
between pioglitazone and bladder cancer are limited, additional
studies are needed to inform regulatory agencies, doctors, and
patients on its long term safety. We carried out a population
based study to determine if pioglitazone is associated with an
increased risk of bladder cancer in people with type 2 diabetes.
Methods
This study was carried out using the UK general practice
research database, the world’s largest computerised database
of longitudinal records from primary care.
13
It contains the
complete primary care medical record of more than 10 million
people enrolled in more than 600 general practices. The
geographical distribution of the practices has been shown to be
representative of the UK population, and age and sex
distributions of patients in the database are similar to those
reported by the national population census.
14
Participating
general practitioners have been trained to record medical
information, including demographic data, medical diagnoses,
procedures, and deaths using a standardised form. Prescriptions
issued by doctors using the general practice research database
are automatically transcribed into the computer record. In
addition, the database collects information on lifestyle variables
such as body mass index, and quantitative and qualitative data
pertaining to smoking and alcohol use. The Read classification
is used to enter medical diagnoses and procedures, and
prescriptions are recorded based on the UK Prescription Pricing
Authority Dictionary. The recorded information on diagnoses
and drug use has been validated and proved to be of high
quality.
15-18
Study population
Using the general practice research database, we identified all
patients who were prescribed their first ever oral antidiabetic
agent, with at least one year of medical history in the database
before that prescription, between 1 January 1988 and 31
December 2009. The date of entry to the cohort was defined by
the date of this first prescription. The antidiabetic agents
considered at cohort entry consisted of sulfonylureas (for
example, glyburide, gliclazide, glipizide), metformin,
thiazolidinediones (pioglitazone, rosiglitazone), and other oral
hypoglycaemic agents (meglitinides, dipeptidyl peptidase-4
inhibitors, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, glucagon-like peptide-1
analogues, and guar gum). We excluded those patients who
started treatment with insulin as they were more likely to have
type 1 diabetes or advanced type 2 diabetes. Patients who started
insulin during follow-up, however, were retained in the cohort.
We excluded patients who were less than 40 years of age at the
time of their first oral antidiabetic prescription, as well as those
with a history of bladder cancer at any time before cohort entry.
Participants were followed until a diagnosis of bladder cancer,
death from any cause, end of registration with the general
practice, or end of the study period (31 December 2009),
whichever came first.
Case-control selection
To investigate the association between pioglitazone and the risk
of bladder cancer we carried out a nested case-control analysis.
We used this approach because of the time varying nature of
drug use, the size of the cohort, and the long duration of
follow-up.
19
Compared with a full cohort approach using a
survival analysis with time dependent variables, a nested
case-control analysis is computationally more efficient,
20
while
producing odds ratios that are unbiased estimators of incidence
rate ratios with little or no loss in precision.
19-21
We used Read codes to identify all incident cases of bladder
cancer occurring during follow-up. For each case, we used the
date of the cancer diagnosis to define the index date. Up to 20
controls were randomly selected from the case’s risk set, after
matching on year of birth, year of cohort entry, sex, and duration
of follow-up. By definition, all controls were alive, had no
previous diagnosis of bladder cancer, and were registered with
their general practice when they were matched to a given case,
and thus had equal duration of medical history information at
the risk set date. The date of the risk set defined the index date
for controls. To consider a latency time window we restricted
all analyses to cases and matched controls with at least one year
of follow-up between cohort entry and index date.
Use of thiazolidinediones
For cases and controls we obtained information on prescription
of all antidiabetic agents prescribed at any time before the index
date. For all definitions of use, including the other antidiabetic
agents, we did not consider use initiated in the year immediately
before the index date to take into account a biologically
meaningful latency time window, and to minimise reverse
causation, where initiation of a treatment may have been
influenced by early signs or symptoms of cancer.
The definition of primary exposure focused on the ever use of
pioglitazone and rosiglitazone, defined by the presence of at
least one prescription between cohort entry and the year before
the index date. Thus patients were classified into one of four
mutually exclusive categories for use of thiazolidinediones:
exclusive ever use of pioglitazone, exclusive ever use of
rosiglitazone, ever use of both pioglitazone and rosiglitazone
(mainly switchers from one drug to the other), and never use of
any thiazolidinedione. Never users served as the reference
category in the analyses.
To examine potential dose-response relations between
pioglitazone and bladder cancer we redefined use in secondary
analyses. Therefore, for patients deemed to be exclusive ever
users of pioglitazone in the primary exposure definition, we
calculated their cumulative duration of use, defined as the time
between the first and last prescription, plus the duration of that
last prescription. To increase the comparability of our results
with those of previous observational studies,
4 5
we classified
cumulative duration of use as ≤12 months, 13-24 months , and
>24 months. Finally, in the third approach we computed the
cumulative dosage by multiplying the daily dose of each
pioglitazone prescription by its specified prescription duration
and adding these prescription specific values across all
prescriptions received by a given patient between cohort entry
and index date. As with cumulative duration, we categorised
this variable using the same cut-offs as used in previous
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BMJ 2012;344:e3645 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e3645 (Published 31 May 2012) Page 2 of 11
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studies
4 5
: ≤10 500 mg, 10 501-28 000 mg, and >28 000 mg.
Similar dose-response analyses were also done for rosiglitazone.
Statistical analysis
We used conditional logistic regression to estimate rate ratios
and corresponding 95% confidence intervals for the association
between pioglitazone use and the risk of incident bladder cancer.
In our first model we evaluated whether exclusive ever use of
pioglitazone, when compared with never use of any
thiazolidinedione, was associated with an increased risk of
bladder cancer. Identical analyses were done for the
thiazolidinedione rosiglitazone, which has not been associated
with an increased risk of bladder cancer. In a sensitivity analysis
to assess the potential impact of confounding by indication, we
compared exclusive ever users of pioglitazone with exclusive
ever users of rosiglitazone.
In our second and third models we evaluated whether there was
a dose-response relation between exclusive ever use of
pioglitazone and bladder cancer in terms of cumulative duration
of use and cumulative dosage. These analyses were also done
for rosiglitazone. We assessed linear trend by entering these
dose-response variables as continuous variables in the
conditional logistic models. In addition to year of birth, year of
cohort entry, sex, and duration of follow-up (on which the
logistic regression models were conditioned), we adjusted for
several potential confounders measured at any time before cohort
entry: HbA
1c
(last measure before cohort entry), excessive
alcohol use (based on alcohol related disorders, such as
alcoholism, alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholic hepatitis
and failure, and other related disorders), obesity (body mass
index ≥30 kg/m
2
), smoking (ever versus never), previous cancer
(other than non-melanoma skin cancer), previous bladder
conditions (such as cystitis and bladder stones), and Charlson
comorbidity score,
22
modified for use in the general practice
research database
23
and adapted not to include diabetes and
previous cancer, to avoid duplicate adjustments. Models were
further adjusted for ever use of other antidiabetic agents
(metformin, sulfonylureas, insulins, and other oral
hypoglycaemic agents), defined as at least one prescription
between cohort entry and the year before index date. For all
models we calculated absolute adjusted rate differences and
corresponding 95% confidence intervals using the formula:
R
0
*(1−RR), where R
0
was the overall bladder cancer rate in the
cohort and RR was the adjusted rate ratio for bladder cancer in
relation to use of pioglitazone.
We carried out three sensitivity analyses to assess the robustness
of our findings. Initially we restricted all analyses to cases and
matched controls with at least one year of follow-up and
excluded antidiabetic drugs started during the year before the
index date to consider a latency time window. However, to
account for the possibility that pioglitazone may act as a
promoter rather than an inductor of bladder cancer, we repeated
the analyses without considering a latency time window. In a
second sensitivity analysis we assessed potential
misclassification of use by redefining ever use of pioglitazone
and rosiglitazone as receiving at least three prescriptions within
a 12 month period, thus minimising the inclusion of patients
who may not have been regular users or used these drugs
sporadically. Finally, in a third sensitivity analysis we repeated
the cumulative duration of use and cumulative dosage analyses
by categorising these variables in tertile categories, based on
the distribution of use in the controls. All analyses were done
with SAS version 9.2 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC).
Results
Of the 241 111 patients prescribed antidiabetic agents during
the study period, 115 727 met the study inclusion criteria
(figure). The mean age at cohort entry was 64.1 (SD 12.0)
years, and the mean duration of follow-up was 4.6 (SD 3.6)
years. At cohort entry, the median HbA
1c
was 8.2%, and in
descending order, most patients received metformin
monotherapy (67%), followed by sulfonylurea monotherapy
(30%), and thiazolidinedione monotherapy (0.5%), whereas the
rest used other agents or combinations of agents (3%). No
patients received insulin at cohort entry, as per the inclusion
criteria. The mean duration of pioglitazone use among controls
was 2.2 (SD 1.5) years (range 28 days to 6.7 years) and was
similar for rosiglitazone, where the mean duration was 2.3 (SD
1.5) years (range 28 days to 7.6 years).
A total of 470 patients had a diagnosis of incident bladder cancer
during 526 559 person years of follow-up, yielding an overall
rate for bladder cancer of 89.4 per 100 000 person years (95%
confidence interval 81.4 to 97.7); the incidence rate of bladder
cancer in the general UK population was 73 per 100 000 person
years in 2008, for a population aged at least 65 years.
24
The
higher incidence rate observed in our cohort is consistent with
data suggesting an association between type 2 diabetes and an
increased risk of bladder cancer.
25
The primary analyses were restricted to 376 cases, matched to
6699 controls, with at least one year of follow-up between cohort
entry and index date to account for latency. Table 1 presents
the characteristics of these cases and matched controls. Cases
were predominantly male. Known risk factors significantly
associated with bladder cancer were smoking, previous
diagnoses of cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer),
and a higher comorbidity score. Table 2 presents the patterns
of use of the different antidiabetic agents, measured between
cohort entry and the year before the index date, among cases
and matched controls.
Exclusive ever use of pioglitazone was associated with an 83%
increased rate of bladder cancer (adjusted rate ratio 1.83, 95%
confidence interval 1.10 to 3.05, table 3). This corresponded
to an absolute adjusted rate difference of 74 per 100 000 person
years (95% confidence interval 9 to 140). This effect was not
observed for exclusive ever use of rosiglitazone (adjusted rate
ratio 1.14, 95% confidence interval 0.78 to 1.68), the other
thiazolidinedione available in the United Kingdom during the
study period.
Participants prescribed thiazolidinediones were more likely to
be obese, to have ever smoked, and to have uncontrolled diabetes
than those who never used any thiazolidinedione. Exclusive
ever users of pioglitazone and rosiglitazone, however, were
generally similar on most variables, and both groups had lower
comorbidity scores than participants who never used any
thiazolidinedione (see supplementary table 1). In a sensitivity
analysis to assess confounding by indication, we compared
exclusive ever users of pioglitazone with exclusive ever users
of rosiglitazone. The adjusted rate ratio was numerically
increased but did not reach statistical significance (adjusted rate
ratio 1.60, 95% confidence interval 0.88 to 2.90) owing to few
users (19 v 36). None the less, the results of this sensitivity
analysis are consistent with those of our primary analysis.
There was evidence of a dose-response relation between
pioglitazone use and the rate of bladder cancer (table 4). In
terms of cumulative duration of use, the rate of bladder cancer
increased as a function of duration of use, with the highest rate
observed in users of more than 24 months (adjusted rate ratio
1.99, 95% confidence interval 1.14 to 3.45), corresponding to
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Page 3
an absolute adjusted rate difference of 88 per 100 000 person
years (95% confidence interval 12 to 165). For cumulative
dosage, a statistically significant association was observed in
patients who received more than 28 000 mg (2.54, 1.05 to 6.14),
corresponding to an absolute adjusted rate difference of 137 per
100 000 person years (95% confidence interval 4 to 271). There
was no evidence of a dose-response relation with rosiglitazone,
both for cumulative duration of use and cumulative dosage (see
supplementary table 2).
Sensitivity analyses
To incorporate a latency time window, the primary analysis was
restricted to the 376 cases and their matched controls that had
at least one year of follow-up before their index date. In a
sensitivity analysis, we repeated the analyses without
considering a latency time window. These analyses included
all 490 cases and their matched controls. The exclusion of the
latency window did not alter our results appreciably, as only
one case was exposed to pioglitazone in the first year of
follow-up (data not shown). In a second sensitivity analysis, we
redefined exclusive ever use of pioglitazone and rosiglitazone
as receiving at least three prescriptions within a 12 month period.
Compared with the results of the primary analysis, this analysis
yielded a slightly higher point estimate for pioglitazone (adjusted
rate ratio 1.88, 95% confidence interval 1.10 to 3.22) but a
slightly lower one for rosiglitazone (1.11, 0.74 to 1.66),
indicating minimal misclassification of use. Finally, categorising
cumulative duration and cumulative dosage of pioglitazone into
three categories produced results consistent with those of our
primary analyses on duration and dose (data not shown).
Discussion
The use of pioglitazone in patients newly treated with oral
hypoglycaemic agents is associated with a significant increased
risk of bladder cancer. This effect was not observed with
rosiglitazone, confirming a drug specific effect. Furthermore,
a dose-response relation was observed for cumulative duration
of use, with the highest risk observed in participants who used
pioglitazone for more than 24 months. A similar dose-response
relation was observed in patients who received a high cumulative
dosage of pioglitazone. These findings remained consistent in
several sensitivity analyses.
Comparison with previous studies
To our knowledge, few observational studies have examined
the association between pioglitazone use and the risk of bladder
cancer.
3-5 11 12
The first study did not find an overall increase in
risk (hazard ratio 1.2, 95% confidence interval 0.9 to 1.5),
although a modest increased risk was observed after two years
of use (1.4, 1.03 to 2.0).
4
The second study found that
pioglitazone was associated with a modest increased risk of
bladder cancer overall (hazard ratio 1.22, 95% confidence
interval 1.05 to 1.43), which was driven by an increased risk
after two years of use (1.34, 1.04 to 1.79).
5
In the third study,
ever use of pioglitazone was not associated with an increased
risk of bladder cancer overall (odds ratio 0.95, 95% confidence
interval 0.70 to 1.29), although an increased risk could not be
excluded with more than three years of use (1.56, 0.51 to 4.47).
In the fourth study, ever use of pioglitazone was not statistically
associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, but the study
was possibly underpowered owing to the few cases of bladder
cancer included in the analysis (n=165).
12
By combining both
new and prevalent users of antidiabetic drugs, these previous
studies may have underestimated the association between
pioglitazone and bladder cancer.
26
Specifically, patients receiving
pioglitazone who developed bladder cancer before entry to the
cohort were, according to the inclusion criteria, selected out of
the previous studies. Thus these designs may have missed
several cases of bladder cancer that developed among
pioglitazone users, a limitation further exacerbated by the fact
that this therapy seems to increase the risk over a relatively short
duration of use—that is, after two years. Furthermore, the
magnitude of the association observed in our study (twofold
increased risk after 24 months of use) is consistent with the
nearly threefold increased risk observed in the PROactive trial
after an average three year follow-up (14 cases in the
pioglitazone group versus 5 in the placebo group).
7
Possible biological mechanisms
Thiazolidinedione peroxisome proliferator activated receptor
gamma (PPARγ) ligands have complex biological effects,
27 28
but no obvious a priori mechanism links these agents to bladder
cancer. In fact, growth inhibitory actions attributed to on-target
effects of PPAR ligands have been reported in tissue culture
systems, and these results do not predict increased risk of
carcinogenesis.
29-31
However, bladder tumours have been
reported in laboratory animals exposed to compounds with
PPARγ activity, although these models are of uncertain
relevance to human carcinogenesis, as considerable species
specificity has been noted, with pioglitazone induced bladder
cancer being documented in rats but not in mice.
32
One line of
research implicates chronic bladder irritation as a result of
crystal formation, rather than PPAR related signalling, in the
observed urothelial carcinogenesis.
33
It is of interest that
muraglitazar, another PPAR agonist that has been experimentally
associated with bladder cancer in rats,
34
is also associated with
urolithiasis. However, additional research is needed to elucidate
the mechanisms by which a subset of pioglitazone PPAR
agonists may increase the risk of bladder cancer, and specifically
to determine if risk is indeed correlated with increased urinary
crystals in humans, and if so to determine the basis of the crystal
formation.
Strengths and limitations of the study
This population based study has several strengths and some
potential limitations. We assembled a large cohort of patients
with type 2 diabetes, followed for up to 22 years. Thus the size
and long term follow-up of patients enabled the identification
of a large number of bladder cancer cases with varying duration
of diabetes. In addition, because the general practice research
database contains prerecorded information on prescriptions, the
possibility of recall bias was eliminated. However, drug
information in the general practice research database represents
prescriptions written by general practitioners. As such, it is
unknown whether prescriptions were actually filled at the
pharmacy and whether patients fully adhered to the treatment
regimen. Furthermore, prescriptions written by specialists or
issued during hospital stay are not recorded in the database.
Such misclassification of drug use would be non-differential
and therefore bias the results towards the null.
Thiazolidinediones, such as pioglitazone, are indicated for
patients intolerant of metformin or sulfonylureas, for patients
in whom these drugs are contraindicated, and for patients with
poorly controlled diabetes already taking other oral
hypoglycaemic agents. Thus people receiving thiazolidinediones
are typically at an advanced disease stage than those receiving
other oral agents,
35
which may in itself be associated with an
increased risk of bladder cancer.
36
We attempted to control for
this variable by matching cases and controls on duration of
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BMJ 2012;344:e3645 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e3645 (Published 31 May 2012) Page 4 of 11
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follow-up (that is, the time since start of oral antidiabetic
therapy), which has been shown to be a good proxy for disease
severity,
37
and adjusting the models for HbA
1c
, although this
information was missing for 19% of the cases and controls.
However, the lack of any association with rosiglitazone (a
thiazolidinedione sharing the same indication as pioglitazone)
both in crude and adjusted models and our direct comparison
of pioglitazone with rosiglitazone in a sensitivity analysis
strongly suggests that disease severity did not confound the
association between pioglitazone and bladder cancer. The
general practice research database does not collect information
on tumour grade and stage but has been shown to have
comparable case ascertainment rates as UK cancer registries.
38
Another limitation of the general practice research database is
the lack of information on certain risk factors for bladder cancer.
These include exposure to arsenic, occupational exposures,
race/ethnicity, and family history of bladder cancer. However,
it is unlikely that these variables were differentially distributed
between ever users of pioglitazone and ever users of other oral
hypoglycaemic agents. Thus we do not believe that the absence
of these variables affected the internal validity of the study,
although residual confounding may still be present. Finally, the
general practice research database contains information on
several important confounders, such as body mass index,
excessive alcohol use, and smoking. Therefore we were able to
adjust for a number of important variables often absent in
administrative databases.
Conclusions and policy implications
In summary, the results of this study provide evidence that
pioglitazone is associated with an increased risk of bladder
cancer, whereas no increased risk was observed with the
thiazolidinedione rosiglitazone. The increased risk associated
with pioglitazone became apparent after use for at least 24
months and receiving cumulative dosages greater than 28 000
mg. Such associations may have been underestimated in the
previous observational studies that included prevalent users.
While the magnitudes of the rate ratios were relatively high, the
risks associated with pioglitazone are in absolute terms low.
Indeed, in this study the highest durations of use and cumulative
dosage increased the rate of bladder cancer by 88 and 137 cases
per 100 000 person years, respectively. Thus doctors, patients,
and regulatory agencies should be aware of this association
when assessing the overall risks and benefits of this therapy.
LA is the recipient of a Chercheur-Boursier award from the Fonds de
la recherche en santé du Québec and SS is the recipient of the James
McGill Chair.
Contributors: All authors participated in the study design. SS acquired
the data. LA and HY did the analyses. LA wrote the manuscript and all
authors participated in the interpretation of the results and critical revision
of the manuscript. LA is the guarantor.
Funding: This study was supported by grants from the Canadian
Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Foundation for
Innovation. The funding sources had no role in the design, analysis,
and interpretation of the results, and thus the authors were independent
from the funding source.
Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform
disclosure form at www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf (available on
request from the corresponding author) and declare: MNP served as a
consultant for Novo Nordisk and Sanofi-Aventis and received research
funding from Novo Nordisk; no other financial relationships with any
organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the
previous three years; and no other relationships or activities that could
appear to have influenced the submitted work.
Ethical approval: This study was approved by the independent scientific
advisory committee of the general practice research database and the
research ethics committee of the Jewish General Hospital, Montreal,
Canada.
Data sharing: No additional data available.
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BMJ 2012;344:e3645 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e3645 (Published 31 May 2012) Page 5 of 11
RESEARCH
Page 5
What is already known on this topic
The association between use of the thiazolidinedione antidiabetic agent pioglitazone and bladder cancer is controversial
The few population based studies on this subject produced conflicting results
Additional studies are needed to confirm or refute this association
What this study adds
Overall, the use of pioglitazone, and not the thiazolidinedione rosiglitazone, was associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer
This risk increased with duration of use and cumulative dosage and was highest among those using the drug for more than 24 months
and those receiving cumulative dosages greater than 28 000 mg
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of pioglitazone, a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma agonist, on the urine
and urothelium of the rat. Toxicol Sci 2010;113:349-57.
33 Sato K, Awasaki Y, Kandori H, Tanakamaru ZY, Nagai H, Baron D, et al. Suppressive
effects of acid-forming diet against the tumorigenic potential of pioglitazone hydrochloride
in the urinary bladder of male rats. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2011;251:234-44.
34 Dominick MA, White MR, Sanderson TP, Van VT, Cohen SM, Arnold LE, et al. Urothelial
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type 2 diabetes mellitus uncontrolled with sulfonylureas and metformin. Pharmacotherapy
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patterns of risk for cancer: a study with the General Practice Research Database and
secondary care data. Diabetologia 2012;55:654-65.
Accepted: 18 April 2012
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3645
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BMJ 2012;344:e3645 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e3645 (Published 31 May 2012) Page 6 of 11
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Page 6
Tables
Table 1| Baseline characteristics of bladder cancer cases and matched controls. Values are numbers (percentages) unless stated otherwise
Crude rate ratio (95% CI)Controls (n=6699)Cases (n=376)Characteristics
68.9 (8.6)68.9 (9.3)Mean (SD) age (years)*
5400 (81.4)306 (81.4)Men*
4.8 (2.7)4.8 (3.2)Mean (SD) duration of follow-up (years)*
0.95 (0.63 to 1.45)430 (6.4)23 (6.1)Excessive alcohol use†
Body mass index (kg/m
2
):
1.00 (reference)4171 (62.3)222 (59.0)<30
1.08 (0.88 to 1.34)2416 (36.1)140 (37.2)≥30
2.20 (1.28 to 3.78)112 (1.7)14 (3.7)Unknown
Smoking status:
1.00 (reference)2743 (41.0)102 (27.1)Never
1.86 (1.47 to 2.34)3361 (50.2)240 (63.8)Ever
1.51 (1.02 to 2.22)595 (8.9)34 (9.0)Unknown
HbA
1c
:
1.00 (reference)3384 (50.5)198 (52.7)≤7.4%
0.89 (0.71 to 1.13)2042 (30.5)106 (28.2)>7.4%
0.97 (0.74 to 1.27)1273 (19.0)72 (19.2)Unknown
1.28 (0.82 to 2.01)335 (5.0)23 (6.1)Previous bladder conditions
1.89 (1.40 to 2.55)481 (7.2)50 (13.3)Previous cancer‡
1.10 (1.01 to 1.20)0.95 (1.17)1.07 (1.34)Mean (SD) Charlson comorbidity score§
*Matching variables (along with year of cohort entry). For controls, means and percentages were weighted by the inverse number of controls matched to each
case.
†Based on alcohol related disorders, such as alcoholism, alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholic hepatitis and failure, and other related disorders.
‡Cancers other than non-melanoma skin cancer.
§Calculation based on presence of 19 categories of comorbidity.
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BMJ 2012;344:e3645 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e3645 (Published 31 May 2012) Page 7 of 11
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Table 2| Patterns of antidiabetic agents received between cohort entry and year before index date among cases of bladder cancer and
matched controls*
Crude rate ratio (95% CI)No (%) of controls (n=6699)No (%) of cases (n=376)Antidiabetic agents
1.00 (reference)2104 (31.4)119 (31.7)Metformin only
0.62 (0.44 to 0.87)1564 (23.4 )69 (18.4)Sulfonylureas only
0.98 (0.72 to 1.33)1688 (25.2)99 (26.3)Metformin and sulfonylureas
0.99 (0.53 to 1.86)231 (3.5)12 (3.2)Metformin and thiazolidinediones
1.06 (0.64 to 1.75)381 (5.7)23 (6.1)Metformin, sulfonylureas, and thiazolidinediones
1.04 (0.56 to 1.91)211 (3.2)15 (4.0)Metformin, sulfonylureas, and insulin
1.49 (0.65 to 3.44)72 (1.1)7 (1.9)Metformin, sulfonylureas, and other agents†
1.86 (0.86 to 4.02)80 (1.2)9 (2.4)Metformin, sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones, and
insulin
1.03 (0.63 to 1.68)368 (5.5)23 (6.1)Other treatment combinations
*Matched on year of birth, year of cohort entry, sex, and duration of follow-up.
†This category included meglitinides, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, glucagon-like peptide-1 analogues, and guar gum. These
categories are mutually exclusive.
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Table 3| Thiazolidinediones and risk of bladder cancer among cases of bladder cancer and matched controls*
Adjusted rate ratio (95% CI)†Crude rate ratio (95% CI)No (%) of controls (n=6699)No (%) of cases (n=376)Use of thiazolidinediones
1.00 (Reference)1.00 (reference)5856 (87.4)319 (84.8)Never use of any thiazolidinedione
1.83 (1.10 to 3.05)1.87 (1.13 to 3.09)191 (2.9)19 (5.1)Exclusive ever use of pioglitazone
1.14 (0.78 to 1.68)1.16 (0.79 to 1.69)596 (8.9)36 (9.6)Exclusive ever use of rosiglitazone
0.78 (0.18 to 3.29)0.74 (0.18 to 3.08)56 (0.8)2 (0.5)Ever use of both pioglitazone and
rosiglitazone
*Matched on year of birth, year of cohort entry, sex, and duration of follow-up.
†Adjusted for excessive alcohol use, obesity, smoking status, HbA
1c
, previous bladder conditions, previous cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer), Charlson
comorbidity score, and ever use of other antidiabetic agents (metformin, sulfonylureas, insulin, and other oral hypoglycaemic agents).
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Table 4| Pioglitazone cumulative duration of use and cumulative dosage and risk of bladder cancer among cases of bladder cancer and
matched controls*
Adjusted rate ratio (95% CI)†Crude rate ratio (95% CI)
No (%) of controls
(n=6699)No (%) of cases (n=376)Variables
1.00 (reference)1.00 (reference)5856 (87.4)319 (84.8)Never use of any thiazolidinediones
Cumulative duration of
pioglitazone:
0.56 (0.07 to 4.42)0.69 (0.09 to 5.11)27 (0.4)1 (0.3)≤12 months
3.03 (0.63 to 14.52)2.99 (0.61 to 14.59)11 (0.2)2 (0.5)13-24 months
1.99 (1.14 to 3.45)2.00 (1.16 to 3.45)153 (2.3)16 (4.3)>24 months
P=0.050 for trend
Cumulative dosage of pioglitazone:
1.58 (0.69 to 3.62)1.63 (0.72 to 3.69)70 (1.0)7 (1.9)≤10 500 mg
1.66 (0.70 to 3.94)1.75 (0.75 to 4.07)68 (1.0)6 (1.6)10 501-28 000 mg
2.54 (1.05 to 6.14)2.44 (1.02 to 5.84)53 (0.8)6 (1.6)>28 000 mg
P=0.030 for trend
*Matched on year of birth, year of cohort entry, sex, and duration of follow-up.
†Adjusted for excessive alcohol use, obesity, smoking status, HbA
1c
, previous bladder conditions, previous cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer), Charlson
comorbidity score, and ever use of other antidiabetic agents (metformin, sulfonylureas, insulin, and other oral hypoglycaemic agents).
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Figure
Fig 1 Flow of participants through study
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  • Source
    • "Another issue of concern is that at least in mouse models of lung cancer metastasis there is evidence supporting a dichotomized behaviour of PPARγ that inhibits cancer cell invasiveness but on the other hand, it fuels the pro-tumorigenic function of non-malignant cells of the myeloid lineage upon its activation [158]. Further, as it was mentioned above, the usage of pioglitazone has been incriminated for an increased risk of bladder cancer incidence [28,[148][149][150]. Although it is seemingly bizarre, a plausible scenario is that pioglitazone may engage an anti-tumor PPARγ/PPRE-dependent pathway only under " permissive " cellular conditions. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The development of efficacious antitumor compounds with minimal toxicity is a hot research topic. Numerous cancer cell targeted agents are evaluated daily in laboratories for their antitumorigenicity at the pre-clinical level, but the process of their introduction into the market is costly and time-consuming. More importantly, even if these new antitumor agents manage to gain approval, clinicians have no former experience with them. Accruing evidence supports the idea that several medications already used to treat pathologies other than cancer display pleiotropic effects, exhibiting multi-level anti-cancer activity and chemosensitizing properties. This review aims to present the anticancer properties of marketed drugs (i.e., metformin and pioglitazone) used for the management of diabetes mellitus (DM) type II. Mode of action, pre-clinical in vitro and in vivo or clinical data as well as clinical applicability are discussed here. Given the precious multi-year clinical experience with these non-antineoplastic drugs their repurposing in oncology is a challenging alternative that would aid towards the development of therapeutic schemes with less toxicity than those of conventional chemotherapeutic agents. More importantly, harnessing the antitumor function of these agents would save precious time from bench to bedside to aid the fight in the arena of cancer.
    Preview · Article · May 2016 · Pharmaceuticals
    • "Previous reports have demonstrated that Pioglitazone, a high-affinity ligand for PPARγ; improves insulin resistance in diabetics but often leads to weight gain [33]. However, the use of pioglitazone is associated with an increased risk of incident bladder cancer among people with type -2 diabetes [34]. When compared to pioglitazone [35], we found that oleuropein has comparable effects. "
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  • Source
    • " non-randomized studies conducted in small groups of patients; this is why it is difficult to make final conclusions [78, 79]. Definitive data in humans, associating the TZDs with cancer development is not available. Azoulay et al., reported an increased risk of bladder cancer in the group of patients using pioglitazone (HR 1.83; 95 % CI 1.10–3.05) [80], while Wei et al., analyzed the risk in 23,548 patients exposed to pioglitazone and 184,166 exposed to other antidiabetic treatments and reported that pioglitazone may not be significantly associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer (1.16; 95 % CI 0.83–1.62) [81, 82] . The largest study examining the side effects of pioglitazone"
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a serious, chronic, progressive and widespread disease. Metformin is the most commonly prescribed initial therapy, but combination with other antidiabetic agents usually becomes necessary due to the progression of the disease. Pioglitazone is recommended as a second-line therapy because of its strong antihyperglycemic effect and its ability to reduce insulin resistance. Treatment with pioglitazone is associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular complications and hypoglycemia, while simultaneously improving the lipid profile and the symptomatic and histological changes in the liver. Gliptins (sitagliptin and vildagliptin) are a new class of oral antidiabetic drugs which reduce glycated hemoglobin by a different mechanism. Although the efficacy of sitagliptin and vildagliptin is close to that of pioglitazone, the lack of long-term safety data and the higher price question their predominant use. The objective of this review is to highlight the advantages of mono- and combination therapy with pioglitazone in comparison with gliptins and to underline the inconsistencies in the medicinal and reimbursement policy in Bulgaria.
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