Sounds like 'pye-oh-glit-ah-zone'

Key points about pioglitazone

  • Pioglitazone is used to treat type 2 diabetes, usually when other treatments no longer work well to control your blood glucose.
  • Pioglitazone is also called Vexazone.
  • Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects.
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Pioglitazone is used to treat type 2 diabetes, together with exercise, good nutrition, weight loss and other lifestyle measures. It may be used alone or with other medicines for diabetes. It's usually used when other treatments no longer work well to control your blood glucose. Pioglitazone has other benefits such as lowering your chance of having a heart attack. Read more about type 2 diabetes.

  • In Aotearoa New Zealand pioglitazone is available as tablets (15mg, 30mg and 45mg).
  • The usual starting dose is 15mg once a day.
  • Depending on your blood glucose levels, your doctor may increase your dose over a few months to 45mg once a day.
  • Always take your pioglitazone exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.

  • Timing: Take pioglitazone once a day, at the same time each day. Swallow your tablets with a drink of water. You can take pioglitazone with or without food.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol while you are taking pioglitazone: Alcohol may affect your blood glucose control and increase your risk of side effects.
  • Missed dose: If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember but if it's nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Don't take double the dose.
  • Keep taking pioglitazone regularly: To control your diabetes you must take pioglitazone every day. Talk to your doctor or nurse before stopping. Contact your doctor or nurse for advice if you have been unwell and missed meals.

Here are some things to know when you're taking pioglitazone.

  • Pioglitazone can interact with some other medicines and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting pioglitazone and before starting any new products.
  • If you are sick and not eating, ask your healthcare provider for advice. They may recommend that you stop taking pioglitazone until you're better. Read more about diabetes sick day plan.
  • Pioglitazone can weaken your bones increasing your risk of breaking a bone, particularly if you are a woman. You may need tests to check for this before you start. If you're treated for a broken bone or fracture, let your doctor know as soon as possible afterwards.
  • Pioglitazone may cause you to gain weight, this is mostly fluid. Let your doctor know if you notice fluid retention or weight gain.

Like all medicines, pioglitazone can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Sore throat, cough, runny nose, sneezing
  • Headache
  • Tell your doctor if these bother you.
  • Problems with your eyesight
  • Your eyesight may be affected for a short time when you first start pioglitazone.
  • Don't drive, cycle or use machinery until your eyesight is back to normal.
  • If it lasts for more than a few days, or if you are worried, tell your doctor.
  • Weight gain
  • Pioglitazone can cause some people to gain weight.
  • Lifestyle changes can be helpful in preventing weight gain, eg, making better eating choices, limiting your portion sizes, and getting more exercise. Read more about medicines and weight gain(external link).
  • Tell your doctor if you're concerned.
  • Blood in your pee (urine) or problems peeing such as needing to pee more often
  • Tell your doctor.
  • Signs of low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia) such as feeling weak, faint, dizzy or irritable. You may get a headache, tremor (shakes) or blurred vision.
  • Pioglitazone cannot cause hypoglycaemia on its own.
  • If you are taking pioglitazone as well as insulin and/or a sulphonylurea (gliclazide, glipizide or glibenclamide), very rarely the addition of pioglitazone may lower your blood glucose too much.
  • If this happens, follow the instructions for treating a hypo given to you by your healthcare team. Tell your doctor or nurse if this happens.
  • Read more about low blood glucose.
  • Signs of problems with your heart, eg, swollen your arms, ankles, legs or stomach, problems breathing
  • Tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline free on 0800 611 116.
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, eg, skin rash, itching, swelling of your lips, face and mouth, or difficulty breathing 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline free on 0800 611 116.
  • Signs of problems with your liver, eg, yellowing of your skin or eyes, dark urine or pain in your abdomen 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline free on 0800 611 116. 
Did you know that you can report a medicine side effect to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.(external link)

The following links provide further information about pioglitazone.

Pioglitazone(external link) NZ Formulary Patient Information
Vexazone(external link) Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet


  1. Pioglitazone(external link) NZ Formulary
  2. Pioglitazone(external link) Type 2 Diabetes Management, NZSSD, 2021

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland; Claire Salter Pharmacist, Tauranga

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