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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28157. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028157. Epub 2011 Dec 2.

Risk of death and cardiovascular outcomes with thiazolidinediones: a study with the general practice research database and secondary care data.

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General Practice Research Database, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, London, United Kingdom.

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2013;8(2). doi:10.1371/annotation/8eb49a9f-06ae-4c79-bfe9-56974061321b.



To describe the likely extent of confounding in evaluating the risks of cardiovascular (CV) events and mortality in patients using diabetes medication.


The General Practice Research Database was used to identify inception cohorts of insulin and different oral antidiabetics. An analysis of bias and incidence of mortality, acute coronary syndrome, stroke and heart failure were analysed in GPRD, Hospital Episode Statistics and death certificates.


206,940 patients were identified. The bias analysis showed that past thiazolidinedione users had a lower mortality risk compared to past metformin users. There were no differences between past users of rosiglitazone and pioglitazone (adjusted RR of 1.04; 95% CI 0.93-1.18). Current rosiglitazone users had an increased risk of death (adjusted RR 1.20; 95% CI 1.08-1.34) and of hospitalisation for heart failure (adjusted RR of 1.73; 95% CI 1.19-2.51) compared to current pioglitazone users. Risk of mortality was increased two-fold shortly after starting rosiglitazone. Excess risk of death over 3 years with rosiglitazone was 0.3 per 100 in those aged 50-64 years, 2.0 aged 65-74, 3.0 aged 75-84, and 7.0 aged 85+. The cause of death with rosiglitazone was more likely to be due to a disease of the circulatory system.


Higher risks for death (overall and due to cardiovascular disease) and heart failure were found for rosiglitazone compared to pioglitazone. These excess risks were largest in patients aged 65 years or older. The European regulatory decision to suspend rosiglitazone is supported by this study.

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