Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) is associated with cardiovascular risk factors, but the effects of pioglitazone and metformin on IGT are not well described. We tested the hypothesis that each drug would exhibit antiatherogenic and anti-inflammatory effects in subjects with IGT and early diabetes. The study design was a prospective, randomized, open label, cross-over study. Blood tests, including a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), were performed at baseline and after each treatment. Pioglitazone 15 mg/day or metformin 500-750 mg/day was given for 3 months. Biochemical markers to assess insulin resistance as well as lipid, inflammatory, neurohumoral, and hemostatic factors were included. Twenty-five subjects (17 male, 8 female; age [mean+/-SD]: 61+/-9 years; 84% hypertensive) completed the protocol. Of 25 subjects, 14 were diagnosed as IGT and 11 as diabetes with 75-g OGTT. Pioglitazone significantly reduced fasting glucose (p<0.05), and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) (p<0.05) and metformin (p<0.01) reduced cholesterol. Both drugs significantly reduced aldosterone (both p<0.05) and von Willebrand factor (vWF) (both p<0.05). Plasma adiponectin was increased only by pioglitazone (p<0.001). Neither drug affected BP levels. In conclusion, pioglitazone was superior to metformin for the improvement of insulin resistance and adiponectin, and both drugs were equally effective in reducing vWF and aldosterone in subjects with IGT and early diabetes. Early intervention with pioglitazone or metformin therapy may reduce the incidence of future cardiovascular disease in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance or early diabetes.