Management of Co-Existing Diabetes Mellitus and Dyslipidemia: Defining the Role of Thiazolidinediones

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The observed reduction in macrovascular outcomes in the United Kingdom Progressive Diabetes Study (UKPDS) trial in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM), treated intensively with insulin or sulfonylureas, was of borderline significance (p = 0.052). This may be because of the role of factors other than glycemic control in the etiology of macrovascular disease. The UKPDS and other studies have suggested that lipid parameters are potent predictors of adverse outcomes in patients with type 2 DM. In patients with DM, dyslipidemia is characterized by elevated serum triglycerides and low high density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) with normal total serum cholesterol levels and usually accompanied by an elevation of atherogenic, small, dense low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) particles. Dyslipidemia is only partly corrected by dietary and lifestyle modifications and pharmacological glycemic control in patients with DM. Several guidelines, including those published by the New Zealand Heart Foundation, suggest that lipid-modifying therapies are appropriate in patients considered to be at high or very high risk of a cardiac event. This includes patients with established vascular disease. Some recent studies suggest that patients with type 2 DM have risk comparable to patients without DM, but have experienced previous myocardial infarction (MI). Subgroup analysis of trials including the Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4S) and Cholesterol and Recurrent Events (CARE), which included patients with DM, have shown a significant reduction in adverse outcomes, although many patients with DM and dyslipidemia were excluded. Of lipid-lowering drugs, fibric acid derivatives are probably the most appropriate for patients with DM and dyslipidemia and their role is being evaluated in large, long-term outcome studies such as Fenofibrate Intervention and Event Lowering in Diabetes (FIELD). Thiazolidinediones, a new class of compound for treating patients with type 2 DM, primarily exert their glucose-lowering effect by increasing insulin sensitivity at the level of skeletal muscle, and to a lesser extent, at the liver by decreasing hepatic glucose output. Some of their actions are mediated through binding and activation of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ, a nuclear receptor that has a regulatory role in differentiation of cells, especially adipocytes. The nonhypoglycemic effects of thiazolidinediones, therefore, offer additional potential mechanisms for benefit in patients with type 2 DM and insulin resistance. Thiazolidinediones increase serum HDL-C levels. Troglitazone and pioglitazone have been shown to decrease serum triglyceride levels. Rosiglitazone, conversely has no significant effect on serum triglyceride levels. All of the thiazolidinediones increase serum LDL-C levels (pioglitazone to a lesser extent), although changes in the size of the LDL fraction may render it less susceptible to oxidation and, therefore, less atherogenic. A randomized comparative trial needs to be undertaken to determine whether true differences exist between the thiazolidinediones. Longer studies need to be undertaken to assess their effect on cardiovascular outcomes.

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