The range of therapeutic modalities to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus has broadened in recent years. Biguanides and thiazolidinediones are the two currently available classes of anti-hyperglycemic agents with insulin-sensitizing properties. Thiazolidinediones, in particular, have received much attention, not only for the well documented hepatotoxicity of troglitazone that led to its removal from the market in 2000, but also for the emerging data that support the beneficial effects of the thiazolidinedione class of drugs on β-cell rejuvenation and cardiovascular risk reduction. In the US, thiazolidinediones are indicated either as monotherapy or in combination with a sulfonylurea, metformin, or insulin in cases where diet, exercise, and a single drug fail. In contrast, the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence included in its re-appraisal of 'glitazones' in August 2003 the continued exclusion from licensed use in the UK of combination therapy with thiazolidinediones and insulin. When added to insulin therapy, thiazolidinediones appear to effectively lower glucose levels and reduce insulin dosage in clinical trials involving individuals with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. However, weight gain, hypoglycemia, and fluid retention pose problems in certain patients. The fluid retention may exacerbate or even precipitate congestive heart failure, which usually necessitates discontinuation of the drug. Risk stratification and careful management of patients at risk for heart failure, including those taking insulin concomitantly, allow healthcare providers to safely administer combination therapy with thiazolidinediones in patients with type 2 diabetes. Hepatic toxicity with currently available thiazolidinediones has been found to be minimal overall.
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