"The patients in this study seem to have been younger [average age 54] and healthier than we've seen in other studies: only about 2 percent had significant pre-existing cardiac conditions," Garratt said. "Most importantly, [cardiovascular] event rates were remarkably low. In fact, event rates were so low it wasn't possible to analyze subgroups, to see if things like kidney function or prior heart attack influenced the response to rosiglitazone."
The study authors analyzed prescribing data for about 30,000 patients with type 2 diabetes, all of whom were members of a private insurance group.
The risk of a heart attack, heart failure or dying hovered at 4 percent over close to three years no matter which medication the patient was taking.
"Our study looked at a population of commercially insured patients so these potentially could represent healthier and younger patients," said study lead author Debra Wertz, outcomes research manager for HealthCore, Inc., the research subsidiary of the insurance company WellPoint, which funded the study.
The time frame of this study -- early 2001 through late 2005 -- may also have affected the findings. "Over the course of time, treatment patterns may change and could impact differences. Avandia use, for instance, has changed quite a bit," she said, with fewer prescriptions written.
"As a general statement, this is not going to change prescribing per se, but it does offer another tool for patients and providers for evaluating the use of rosiglitazone and pioglitazone," Wertz added. "I think it's helpful for doctors and patients to be aware of all the available data and then use that information when making decisions."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on thiazolidinediones.
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