What Is Pioglitazone Hydrochloride?

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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2019
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Pioglitazone hydrochloride is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. It is a thiazolidinedione that works by making the body more sensitive to insulin, thus helping control blood sugar levels. Pioglitazone hydrochloride is not for patients with type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis. This medication can cause or worsen congestive heart failure and may increase the risk of developing bladder cancer in patients taking high doses over a long period of time. Pioglitazone hydrochloride is marketed under the brand name Actos® in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition affecting more than 25 million people in the United States alone. It is the most common form of diabetes and is characterized by high levels of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. An individual with type 2 diabetes has developed insulin resistance and cannot properly store blood sugar into cells for later use as energy. Blood sugar builds up in the blood, causing the pancreas to make more and more insulin. After several years, patients with type 2 diabetes can develop complications, include eye, kidney, and heart diseases.


Patients with type 2 diabetes may be treated with pioglitazone hydrochloride in combination with diet and exercise. The medication is a thiazolidinedione with hypoglycemic or antidiabetic action that helps the body use its insulin more effectively and prevents the liver from making more glucose than it needs to. The result is that the body can move blood sugar into cells properly.

Treatment with this medication usually begins with a low dose that is gradually increased until the most effective dosage for a particular patient is reached. Patients typically take this medication once daily in tablet form. It can be taken with or without food and may take as long as two weeks before a patient’s blood sugar starts to decrease. This drug is most effective when the patient complies with dietary and exercise recommendations and loses weight if necessary.

Taking this medication may cause low or high blood sugar. Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia causes sweating, shakiness or dizziness, and weakness. This can be combated by consuming something that contains sugar like candy or juice. If hypoglycemia is not treated, the symptoms may become severe and can lead to seizures and unconsciousness.

If blood sugar levels get too high, hyperglycemia can result. The patient may experience extreme hunger and thirst, weakness, and blurred vision. If this condition is not treated, diabetic ketoacidosis can result, leading to unconsciousness.

The most common side effects of pioglitazone hydrochloride include sore throat, muscle pain, and cold-like symptoms. Some patients may experience an allergic reaction to this medication. Signs of such a reaction are vomiting, dark urine, and blurred vision or vision loss.

Pioglitazone hydrochloride can cause serious side effects. This drug can cause or worsen heart failure, especially in patients who previously suffered a cardiac event or who have symptoms of heart problems. Symptoms of heart failure include fast weight gain, swelling, and shortness of breath. Liver problems are also associated with this medication, while women taking it experience higher incidences of broken bones and pregnancy if of childbearing age.

On 15 June 2011, the United States Food and Drug Administration released a public statement warning that taking pioglitazone hydrochloride for more than a year may increase a patient’s risk of developing bladder cancer. As a result, patients with active bladder cancer or a prior history of the disease should not take pioglitazone hydrochloride. Patients should not stop taking their medications without consulting with their doctors, but can discuss this risk prior to starting or continuing treatment. Sale of pioglitazone hydrochloride was suspended in France and Germany pending the results of a final review.

This medication will control type 2 diabetes but cannot cure it. There is no cure for this chronic illness. Patients taking pioglitazone hydrochloride should not stop when they begin to feel well without consulting with their doctors.



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