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Diabetes Drug Lowers Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke

Update Date: Feb 18, 2016 09:37 AM EST

A diabetes drug has been linked to lowering risk of heart attack and recurring stroke in non-diabetic patients, a new study found.

For this study, the international research team headed by the Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Public Health examined the effects of taking the drug pioglitazone (Actos) in non-diabetic patients with insulin resistance. The drug is typically prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes.

Although evidence has shown that pioglitazone can prevent heart attack and strokes in type 2 diabetics and people who have difficulty processing sugar, the use of the drug has been debated because it can increase heart failure and edema risk, and contribute to weight gain.

The team recruited 3,876 participants from seven countries who had recently suffered from an ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack. They received either a 45-milligram dosage of the drug or a placebo for almost five years.

Overall, pioglitazone reduced the number of heart events in patients by nearly 25 percent. Nine percent of the participants from the drug group suffered from a stroke or heart attack during the study. The heart attack or stroke rate was 11.8 percent for the patients from the placebo group.

Patients from the drug group were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes with a rate of 3.8 percent. In the placebo group, 7.7 percent of the patients were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

"This study represents a novel approach to prevent recurrent vascular events by reversing a specific metabolic abnormality thought to increase the risk for future heart attack or stroke," Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said in the press release.

"After years of controversy, pioglitazone is now proven to have cardiovascular benefits," said Dr. Silvio Inzucchi, an endocrinologist at Yale University, added in the university's press release. "It's exciting to think that metabolic therapy may now be poised to take its place beside aspirin and cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering therapies for preventing stroke in non-diabetic patients."

The team noted that the drug did increase risk of edema, weight gain and bone fracture.

The study's findings were presented at the International Stroke Conference and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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