Prescribing pattern of glucose lowering drugs in the United Kingdom in the last decade: a focus on the effects of safety warnings about rosiglitazone

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;75(3):861-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04401.x.


Aim: In the last decade, new glucose lowering drugs (GLDs) have been launched, and also several warnings regarding their safety. The cardiovascular safety of thiazolidinediones (TZD) has been questioned. We analyzed the prescription pattern of GLDs from 2000 to November 2009 in the United Kingdom (UK) using the THIN database with special focus on the effects of the safety warnings about rosiglitazone issued in May 2007 and January 2008.

Methods: Annual prevalence and incidence of GLD prescriptions were measured. For TZD, the monthly prevalence and incidence of prescription were calculated from May 2006 to January 2009. The switching pattern around the FDA alert and the characteristics of subjects starting treatment with TZD before and after the alerts were observed.

Results: The prevalence of prescriptions of GLDs increased during the 10 year period, metformin increasing more than three times. Rosiglitazone prevalence showed an increased trend until May 2007, (2.3/1000 person-years) and decreased thereafter (January 2009: 1.1/1000 person-years). The use of pioglitazone increased surpassing rosiglitazone from April 2008 onwards. The incidence of rosiglitazone use decreased sharply after May 2007 (0.8/1000 person-years). The prevalence of use of other therapies remained rather stable from 2000 to 2007 but increased afterwards. After May 2007, rosiglitazone users were increasingly switched to pioglitazone. There was an increased proportion of new users of pioglitazone with cardiovascular risk after the alerts.

Conclusions: The prescription of GLDs in the UK has increased in the last decade. For TZDs, it changed after May 2007 as well as the characteristics of the subjects treated with them.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Drug Labeling*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Substitution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pioglitazone
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rosiglitazone
  • Thiazolidinediones / administration & dosage*
  • Thiazolidinediones / adverse effects
  • United Kingdom


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Rosiglitazone
  • Pioglitazone