Use of pioglitazone in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Boon or bane?


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People with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) have increased morbidity and mortality due to coronavirus disease-19(COVID-19). It has been speculated that use of pioglitazone might increase such risk. The aim of our brief commentary is to review the safety of pioglitazone in people with T2DM and mild/moderate COVID-19.We searched PubMed database using specific keywords related to our aims till May 15, 2020. Full text of relevant articles published in English language were retrieved and reviewed.Medications, including pioglitazone, that upregulate tissue expression of angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), might have a dual role in COVID-19; on the one hand they might increase risk of infection as SARS-CoV2 uses ACE2 as a coreceptor to enter alveolar cells, but on the other hand, by reducing angiotensin II levels, they can protect against acute lung injury. There is no evidence to date that pioglitazone upregulates ACE2 in the alveolar cells; rather, there is evidence from animal studies of upregulation of ACE2 in insulin sensitive tissues, which might have a protective effect on lung injury. Moreover by moderating the exaggerated host proinflammatory response, pioglitazone can potentially reduce SARS-CoV-2 driven hyperinflammation.Pioglitazone has more potential for benefit than harm, and can be continued in people with T2DM and mild/moderate COVID-19, unless there are specific contraindications for its use. There is an urgent need to assess clinically relevant outcomes in people with diabetes and COVID-19 based upon baseline antidiabetes therapy, in particular pioglitazone.

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