Thiazolidinediones and liver toxicity

Diabetes Metab. 2001 Jun;27(3):305-13.


Thiazolidinediones or glitazones specifically target insulin resistance. They have proven efficacy for reducing plasma glucose levels of type 2 diabetic patients treated with diet alone, sulphonylureas, metformin or insulin. In addition, they may be associated to some improvement of cardiovascular risk profile. However, troglitazone, the first compound approved by the FDA in the US, proved to be hepatotoxic and was withdrawn from the market after the report of several dozens of deaths or cases of severe hepatic failure requiring liver transplantation. It remains unclear whether or not hepatotoxicity is a class effect or is related to the unique tocopherol side chain of troglitazone. Rosiglitazone and pioglitazone, two other glitazones, appear to have similar efficacy on blood glucose control of type 2 diabetic patients as compared to troglitazone. In controlled clinical trials, the incidence of significant increases in liver enzyme levels (ALT) was similar with rosiglitazone or pioglitazone as compared to placebo, whereas troglitazone was associated with a threefold greater incidence. In contrast to the numerous case reports of acute liver failure in patients receiving troglitzone, only two cases of severe reversible liver failure have been reported in patients treated with rosiglitazone, with a causal relationship remaining uncertain. Furthermore, no single case of severe hepatotoxicity has been reported yet with pioglitazone. While regular monitoring of liver enzymes is still recommended and more long-term data are desirable, current clinical evidence supports the conclusion that rosiglitazone and pioglitazone do not share the hepatotoxic profile of troglitazone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Incidence
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Liver Failure / chemically induced*
  • Liver Failure / epidemiology
  • Thiazoles / adverse effects*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Thiazoles