Actos (Pioglitazone)


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Active ingredient: Pioglitazone

Dosages: 15mg, 30mg

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What is Actos (Pioglitazone)?

Actos, which goes by the scientific name Pioglitazone, is a medication primarily used to help manage type 2 diabetes. In simple terms, it helps control blood sugar levels in adults. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not use insulin properly, which is necessary for getting sugar (glucose) into cells to be used for energy. It works by making the body more sensitive to insulin, which helps to lower blood sugar levels.

This preparation comes in tablet form and is usually taken once daily. It’s not a substitute for diet and exercise but is often used in conjunction with them to help improve blood sugar management. It’s important to note that this drug is not used for treating type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis, which are different conditions requiring different treatments.

What is Actos used for?

Actos is a medication used to help control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. People with this type of diabetes have high blood sugar because their bodies don’t make enough insulin or don’t use insulin effectively. It helps by making the body more sensitive to the insulin it produces, which assists in lowering and managing blood sugar levels.

This medicine is typically used in combination with a healthy diet and regular exercise. It’s not used to treat type 1 diabetes, which is a different condition where the body doesn’t produce any insulin at all. It is helpful for people looking to improve their blood sugar control when diet, exercise, and other medications are not enough.


Official Uses:

  1. Type 2 Diabetes Management: It is officially approved to help control blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes. It is used as part of a treatment plan that includes diet and exercise.

Off-Label Uses:

  1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Although not officially approved for this use, it is sometimes prescribed to help manage insulin resistance, a common issue in women with PCOS.
  2. Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH): Doctors may prescribe this drug off-label to treat NASH, a liver condition associated with fat accumulation in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol.

What is the best way to take Actos?

  • Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions: Always use this medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Daily Routine: Take it once a day, with or without food, and at the same time each day.
  • Tablet Form: Swallow the tablets whole without breaking, chewing, or crushing them.
  • Monitor Your Health: Keep track of your blood sugar levels and have regular check-ups with your doctor.
  • Maintain Lifestyle: Stick to a healthy diet and regular exercise as part of your diabetes management.

How long does it take Actos to start working?

Actos starts to work on improving insulin sensitivity shortly after you begin taking it, but it can take a bit of time to see significant changes in your blood sugar levels. Generally, you might start to notice improvements in your blood sugar within a few weeks of starting the medication. However, it can take up to two to three months to experience the full benefits of this medicine. This is because it works gradually to help your body use insulin more effectively, lowering your blood sugar levels over time.

It’s important to continue taking the drug as prescribed and keep up with regular blood sugar monitoring so you can see how the medication is affecting your diabetes management. Always discuss any concerns or unusual observations with your healthcare provider.

Under what conditions are Actos contraindicated?

This drug is not suitable for everyone, and there are specific conditions where it should not be used. Here’s a simple explanation of when Actos is contraindicated:

  1. Heart Failure: People with severe or active heart failure should avoid this medicine because it can worsen the condition.
  2. Bladder Cancer: If you have a history of bladder cancer or currently have bladder cancer, you should not take this medication. There’s some evidence that this drug might increase the risk of developing this type of cancer.
  3. Liver Disease: It is not recommended for those with serious liver problems. Before starting this drug, your doctor will likely perform tests to check your liver function.
  4. Diabetic Ketoacidosis: This is a serious diabetic emergency that needs immediate treatment but not with the drscribed drug. It’s a condition where the body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones.
  5. Allergy to Pioglitazone: If you are allergic to pioglitazone or any other components of the medication, you should not take it.

What are common side effects of Actos Pioglitazone?

When taking Actos (Pioglitazone), some people might experience side effects. Here are the common ones:

  1. Weight Gain
  2. Swelling
  3. Headaches
  4. Cold-like Symptoms
  5. Sinus Irritation
  6. Muscle Pain

Do you need to take Actos with food?

You do not necessarily need to take Actos with food. You can take it either on an empty stomach or with a meal, depending on what works best for you. The important thing is to take it consistently at the same time each day to maintain stable blood sugar levels. If you find that taking this drug with food helps to reduce stomach upset or other side effects, it’s perfectly fine to continue doing so.

When taking Actos (Pioglitazone), it’s important to manage your overall diet to support diabetes control. While there’s no specific list of foods strictly prohibited with this definite drug, certain types of products may be better to avoid or limit to help manage your blood sugar levels more effectively. Here’s a list of products you might consider avoiding or limiting:

  1. High-Sugar Foods: Avoid foods and beverages high in sugar, such as sodas, candies, and desserts, as they can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels.
  2. High-Fat Foods: Limit high-fat foods, particularly those rich in saturated and trans fats like fast food, deep-fried foods, and fatty cuts of meat, which can worsen insulin resistance.
  3. Excessive Alcohol: Drinking alcohol in excess can affect blood sugar control and may increase the risk of liver problems, which is a concern when taking it in.
  4. Processed Carbohydrates: Foods like white bread, white rice, and pastries that are made from refined flours can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and should be consumed minimally.
  5. Salt-Heavy Foods: Since this drug can cause fluid retention, limiting salt intake can help mitigate swelling and water retention. Avoid salty snacks and processed foods high in sodium.

What to avoid when taking Actos?

When taking Actos (Pioglitazone), it’s important to be cautious about certain medications that can interact with it. Here’s a simplified list of what to generally avoid or monitor:

  1. Insulin and Other Diabetes Medications: These can interact with Actos and may require dose adjustments to avoid low blood sugar.
  2. Diuretics (“Water Pills”): Can increase dehydration risk, affecting kidney function.
  3. Steroids: These can raise blood sugar levels, reducing the effectiveness of the described medical product.
  4. Hormone Contraceptives: May alter blood sugar levels, necessitating adjustments in diabetes medication.
  5. Certain Heart Medications: Can interact with the described means, affecting how each drug works.

Can I drink alcohol while taking pioglitazone?

Drinking alcohol while taking pioglitazone is something you should be cautious about. Here are the key points to consider:

  1. Blood Sugar Levels: Alcohol can affect your blood sugar levels, sometimes causing them to rise or fall unpredictably. This can make it harder to manage your diabetes.
  2. Liver Health: Pioglitazone can put extra stress on your liver, and so does alcohol. Drinking alcohol while on this medication might increase the risk of liver damage.
  3. Risk of Hypoglycemia: If you’re using pioglitazone with other diabetes medications, especially insulin, alcohol increases your risk of hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar levels), which can be dangerous.

Where to get more info about the drug?

Get more info about the drug by following the link.

Disclaimer: This document does not cover all information about this medication and should not be used as a substitute for the medication guide, a consultation with a pharmacist, or advice from your healthcare provider. For the full medication guide, more detailed information, or any further questions, please contact your pharmacist or healthcare provider directly. It is essential to follow their advice and the official medication guide to ensure the medication is used safely and effectively. Always talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your medication regimen and report any unexpected side effects or concerns immediately. Your pharmacist and healthcare provider are the best resources for information and support regarding your health and medications.

By John Hoffman, M.D., FACS
Medically Reviewed by Steven Sherman
Last Update: July 01, 2024