100 Ways of Using Data to Make Lives Better

Using Data to Find Out About the Safety of Medicines: Pioglitazone and Bladder Cancer

Published on: 17th May 2016

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Public Health
Case Study 2

Prof Helen Colhoun and Prof Tom MacDonald, University of Dundee
Prof Sarah Wild and Prof Paul McKeigue, University of Edinburgh
Prof Iain Buchan and Prof Andrew Renehan, University of Manchester

By linking and analysing data on people living with diabetes and the medicines they take, scientists from across the globe were able to work together to prove the safety of one of the most common treatments for a disease affecting 1 in 10 people.

The Challenge

It is estimated that 9% of adults in the world are currently living with diabetes and the World Health Organisation predict that the disease will be the 7th leading cause of death in the year 2030.

In the United Kingdom, over 5 million people are living with Type 2 diabetes which can be prevented by simple lifestyle measures such as achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight and staying physically active. However, many people require tablet treatments to lower the level of sugar in their bloodstream. This prevents symptoms and reduces the complications of diabetes including heart disease, blindness and kidney failure.

Pioglitazone is one type of tablet used to lower blood sugar levels. In 2011, a study was conducted in the United States which looked at 30,000 people who were taking pioglitazone for diabetes. The study suggested that taking this drug increased the risk of bladder cancer by 40%. As with all drugs, it is important to fully assess the benefits and potential risks of treatment. It was therefore essential to find out whether this risk of bladder cancer was real to the people taking the drug.

The Research

Led by doctors at the University of Dundee, researchers from the UK, including Farr Institute researchers from Dundee, Edinburgh and Manchester, worked with colleagues from across the world to look more closely at the risk of developing bladder cancer in people who had been taking pioglitazone for diabetes. The study saw countries including Canada, the Netherlands and the UK working together to analyse data from more than a million people over a period of 6 years.

The Results

The bigger data from multiple populations, and bigger analysis from an international team of researchers, showed no increased risk of bladder cancer among people with Type 2 diabetes taking pioglitazone.

The Impact

These results will be useful to the authorities responsible for regulating drugs around the world including the European Medicines Agency and the U.S Food and Drugs Administration. The study provided important information on the safety of commonly used drugs that would not have been available without the ability to link data and information on people living with diabetes, the drugs they are taking and other events affecting their health.

For more information visit www.medscape.com/viewarticle/835811

Enquiries to Cherry Martin, Communications Manager, The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, cherry.martin@ed.ac.uk

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