The American Cancer Society warns that long-term use of the type 2 diabetes drug Actos, known generically as pioglitazone, can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
The bladder is a hollow organ in the pelvis with flexible, muscular walls designed to store urine before it leaves the body. There are four main layers to the bladder. The innermost lining is made up of cells called urothelial or transitional cells. The next layer, called the urothelium, is made of up a thin layer of connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. Next is a layer of muscle, and the outer layer is made up of fatty connective tissue that separates the bladder from other nearby layers.
Most bladder cancers begin in the urothelium and grow into or through the other layers as the cancer becomes more advanced. This makes it more difficult to treat. Nearly 7,5000 new bladder cancer cases are diagnosed each year, and about 15,600 people die from the disease annually.
Factors that increase a person’s chance of developing bladder cancer include chronic bladder irritation and infections, bladder defects, genetics, and a family history of the disease. Some medications and herbal supplements have been associated with bladder cancer, the Cancer Society warned; in particular, the type 2 diabetes drug Actos. The medication now carries a warning that using the drug for more than a year can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
Takeda Pharmaceuticals, maker of Actos, is facing thousands of lawsuits from people who say the drug company knew of the bladder cancer risks associated with its drug but failed to warn the public. Most notably, a jury ordered Takeda to pay one Actos bladder cancer victim $9 billion in damages.
Anyone who is taking Actos and experiences bladder cancer symptoms should talk with their doctor. Symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine; changes in bladder habits including frequent urination, pain or burning during urination, and urgency to urinate even when the bladder is not full; lower back pain or bone pain; inability to urinate; loss of appetite and weight loss; and swelling in the feet.
Source: Cancer Society