Actos Linked with Slowed Rate of Atherosclerosis Progression

Plaque build up on the artery wallActos (pioglitazone), an oral drug used in Diabetes, appears to slow the rate of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries, according to researchers at the Phoenix VA HealthCare System.  

In their recent study, prediabetic patients taking pioglitazone preventively had a 38% lower rate of change in atherosclerotic progression in the carotid artery over three years compared to patients taking placebo.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver, but also is found in certain foods.  Throughout life, beginning in childhood, there is a gradual build up of cholesterol and other substances on the inner lining of an artery referred to as atherosclerotic plaques.  In Diabetes, the rate of atherosclerosis progression is even more accelerated. 

Over time, these plaques can harden and narrow an artery enough to slow or even block blood flow. The illustration above shows the build up of an atherosclerotic plaque on an artery wall.

Atherosclerotic plaques are often unstable and can rupture into the vessel lumen causing a blood clot to form.  This can result in a sudden blockage of an artery.  This is often the process by which people experience heart attacks or strokes.  In some people, the first sign of atherosclerosis might be a heart attack or even sudden death.

Diagram courtesy of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Reaven PD, et al “Pioglitazone reduces long-term progression of carotid atherosclerosis in IGT” ADA 2009; Abstract 15-LB.

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