BACKGROUND: Impaired glucose tolerance is associated with increased rates of cardiovascular disease and conversion to type 2 diabetes mellitus. Interventions that may prevent or delay such occurrences are of great clinical importance. METHODS: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to examine whether pioglitazone can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in adults with impaired glucose tolerance. A total of 602 patients were randomly assigned to receive pioglitazone or placebo. The median follow-up period was 2.4 years. Fasting glucose was measured quarterly, and oral glucose tolerance tests were performed annually. Conversion to diabetes was confirmed on the basis of the results of repeat testing. RESULTS: Annual incidence rates for type 2 diabetes mellitus were 2.1% in the pioglitazone group and 7.6% in the placebo group, and the hazard ratio for conversion to diabetes in the pioglitazone group was 0.28 (95% confidence interval, 0.16 to 0.49; P<0.001). Conversion to normal glucose tolerance occurred in 48% of the patients in the pioglitazone group and 28% of those in the placebo group (P<0.001). Treatment with pioglitazone as compared with placebo was associated with significantly reduced levels of fasting glucose (a decrease of 11.7 mg per deciliter vs. 8.1 mg per deciliter [0.7 mmol per liter vs. 0.5 mmol per liter], P<0.001), 2-hour glucose (a decrease of 30.5 mg per deciliter vs. 15.6 mg per deciliter [1.6 mmol per liter vs. 0.9 mmol per liter], P<0.001), and HbA1c (a decrease of 0.04 percentage points vs. an increase of 0.20 percentage points, P<0.001). Pioglitazone therapy was also associated with a decrease in diastolic blood pressure (by 2.0 mm Hg vs. 0.0 mm Hg, P = 0.03), a reduced rate of carotid intima-media thickening (31.5%, P = 0.047), and a greater increase in the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (by 7.35 mg per deciliter vs. 4.5 mg per deciliter [0.4 mmol per liter vs. 0.3 mmol per liter], P = 0.008). Weight gain was greater with pioglitazone than with placebo (3.9 kg vs. 0.77 kg, P<0.001), and edema was more frequent (12.9% vs. 6.4%, P = 0.007). CONCLUSIONS: As compared with placebo, pioglitazone reduced the risk of conversion of impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes mellitus by 72% but was associated with significant weight gain and edema.
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