Studies involving different type 2 diabetes drugs show no evidence that the medications cause heart attacks and strokes, however they do not improve cardiovascular outcomes in patients either. Some medications also pose cancer risks.
The first study compared the drug saxagliptin, marketed in the United States as Onglyza, with a placebo in patients who had type 2 diabetes and were considered at high risk for a cardiovascular event. Another study pitted the drug alogliptin, marketed as Nesina, against placebo. Researchers recorded incidences of cardiovascular death, heart attack or ischemic stroke as well as hospitalizations for unstable angina, coronary revascularization or heart failure. Researchers found that the medications were relatively safe in regard to cardiovascular health.
The studies were conducted after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) severely restricted the use of rosiglitazone, or Avandia, after the medication was linked to deadly heart attacks. Avandia is in a class of type 2 diabetes drugs known as thiazolidinediones (TZD). Onglyza and Nesnia are in a class known as DPP-4 inhibitors.
Other DPP-4 inhibitors include the widely prescribed Januvia. Recent studies have shown that Januvia can increase the risk of painful pancreas inflammation known as acute pancreatitis as well as pancreatic cancer.
Pioglitazone, or Actos, another diabetes medication in the TZD class, was linked in recent years to an increased risk for bladder cancer.