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Actoplus MET (Pioglitazone Hydrochloride / Metformin Hydrochloride) - Description and Clinical Pharmacology



ACTOPLUS MET® (pioglitazone hydrochloride and metformin hydrochloride) tablets contain two oral antihyperglycemic drugs used in the management of type 2 diabetes: pioglitazone hydrochloride and metformin hydrochloride. The concomitant use of pioglitazone and metformin has been previously approved based on clinical trials in patients with type 2 diabetes inadequately controlled on metformin. Additional efficacy and safety information about pioglitazone and metformin monotherapies may be found in the prescribing information for each individual drug.

Pioglitazone hydrochloride is an oral antihyperglycemic agent that acts primarily by decreasing insulin resistance. Pioglitazone is used in the management of type 2 diabetes. Pharmacological studies indicate that pioglitazone improves sensitivity to insulin in muscle and adipose tissue and inhibits hepatic gluconeogenesis. Pioglitazone improves glycemic control while reducing circulating insulin levels.

Pioglitazone [(±)-5-[[4-[2-(5-ethyl-2-pyridinyl)ethoxy]phenyl]methyl]-2,4-] thiazolidinedione monohydrochloride belongs to a different chemical class and has a different pharmacological action than the sulfonylureas, biguanides, or the α-glucosidase inhibitors. The molecule contains one asymmetric center, and the synthetic compound is a racemate. The two enantiomers of pioglitazone interconvert in vivo. The structural formula is as shown:

                                                                                                                  pioglitazone hydrochloride

Pioglitazone hydrochloride is an odorless white crystalline powder that has a molecular formula of C19H20N2O3S•HCl and a molecular weight of 392.90. It is soluble in N,N-dimethylformamide, slightly soluble in anhydrous ethanol, very slightly soluble in acetone and acetonitrile, practically insoluble in water, and insoluble in ether.

Metformin hydrochloride (N,N -dimethylimidodicarbonimidic diamide hydrochloride) is not chemically or pharmacologically related to any other classes of oral antihyperglycemic agents. Metformin hydrochloride is a white crystalline powder with a molecular formula of C4H11N5•HCl and a molecular weight of 165.62. Metformin hydrochloride is freely soluble in water and is practically insoluble in acetone, ether, and chloroform. The pKa of metformin is 12.4. The pH of a 1% aqueous solution of metformin hydrochloride is 6.68. The structural formula is as shown:

                                                                                                                  metformin hydrochloride

ACTOPLUS MET is available as a tablet for oral administration containing 15 mg pioglitazone hydrochloride (as the base) with 500 mg metformin hydrochloride (15 mg/500 mg) or 15 mg pioglitazone hydrochloride (as the base) with 850 mg metformin hydrochloride (15 mg/850 mg) formulated with the following excipients: povidone USP, microcrystalline cellulose NF, croscarmellose sodium NF, magnesium stearate NF, hypromellose 2910 USP, polyethylene glycol 8000 NF, titanium dioxide USP, and talc USP.


Mechanism of Action


ACTOPLUS MET combines two antihyperglycemic agents with different mechanisms of action to improve glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: pioglitazone hydrochloride, a member of the thiazolidinedione class, and metformin hydrochloride, a member of the biguanide class. Thiazolidinediones are insulin-sensitizing agents that act primarily by enhancing peripheral glucose utilization, whereas biguanides act primarily by decreasing endogenous hepatic glucose production.

Pioglitazone hydrochloride

Pioglitazone depends on the presence of insulin for its mechanism of action. Pioglitazone decreases insulin resistance in the periphery and in the liver resulting in increased insulin-dependent glucose disposal and decreased hepatic glucose output. Unlike sulfonylureas, pioglitazone is not an insulin secretagogue. Pioglitazone is a potent and highly selective agonist for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPARγ). PPAR receptors are found in tissues important for insulin action such as adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, and liver. Activation of PPARγ nuclear receptors modulates the transcription of a number of insulin responsive genes involved in the control of glucose and lipid metabolism.

In animal models of diabetes, pioglitazone reduces the hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and hypertriglyceridemia characteristic of insulin-resistant states such as type 2 diabetes. The metabolic changes produced by pioglitazone result in increased responsiveness of insulin-dependent tissues and are observed in numerous animal models of insulin resistance.

Since pioglitazone enhances the effects of circulating insulin (by decreasing insulin resistance), it does not lower blood glucose in animal models that lack endogenous insulin.

Metformin hydrochloride

Metformin hydrochloride improves glucose tolerance in patients with type 2 diabetes, lowering both basal and postprandial plasma glucose. Metformin decreases hepatic glucose production, decreases intestinal absorption of glucose and improves insulin sensitivity by increasing peripheral glucose uptake and utilization. Unlike sulfonylureas, metformin does not produce hypoglycemia in either patients with type 2 diabetes or normal subjects (except in special circumstances, see PRECAUTIONS, General: Metformin hydrochloride ) and does not cause hyperinsulinemia. With metformin therapy, insulin secretion remains unchanged while fasting insulin levels and day-long plasma insulin response may actually decrease.  

Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism

Absorption and Bioavailability:


In bioequivalence studies of ACTOPLUS MET 15 mg/500 mg and 15 mg/850 mg, the area under the curve (AUC) and maximum concentration (Cmax) of both the pioglitazone and the metformin component following a single dose of the combination tablet were bioequivalent to ACTOS® 15 mg concomitantly administered with Glucophage® (500 mg or 850 mg respectively) tablets under fasted conditions in healthy subjects (Table 1).  

Table 1. Mean (SD) Pharmacokinetic Parameters for ACTOPLUS MET®
Regimen N AUC(0-inf)
(ng∙ h/mL)
N Cmax
N Tmax
N T1/2
pioglitazone HCl
15 mg/500 mg ACTOPLUS MET® 51 5984
63 585
63 1.83
51 8.69
15 mg ACTOS® and 500 mg Glucophage® 54 5810
63 608
63 1.75
54 7.90
15 mg/850 mg ACTOPLUS MET® 52 5671
60 569
60 1.89
52 7.19
15 mg ACTOS® and 850 mg Glucophage® 55 5957
61 603
61 2.01
55 7.16
metformin HCl
15 mg/500 mg ACTOPLUS MET® 59 7783
63 1203
63 2.32
59 8.57
15 mg ACTOS® and 500 mg Glucophage® 59 7599
63 1215
63 2.53
59 6.73
15 mg/850 mg ACTOPLUS MET® 47 11927
60 1827
60 2.41
47 17.56
15 mg ACTOS® and 850 mg Glucophage® 52 11569
61 1797
61 2.26
52 17.01

Administration of ACTOPLUS MET 15 mg/850 mg with food resulted in no change in overall exposure of pioglitazone. With metformin there was no change in AUC; however mean peak serum concentration of metformin was decreased by 28% when administered with food. A delayed time to peak serum concentration was observed for both components (1.9 hours for pioglitazone and 0.8 hours for metformin) under fed conditions. These changes are not likely to be clinically significant.

Pioglitazone hydrochloride

Following oral administration, in the fasting state, pioglitazone is first measurable in serum within 30 minutes, with peak concentrations observed within 2 hours. Food slightly delays the time to peak serum concentration to 3 to 4 hours, but does not alter the extent of absorption.

Metformin hydrochloride

The absolute bioavailability of a 500 mg metformin tablet given under fasting conditions is approximately 50% - 60%. Studies using single oral doses of metformin tablets of 500 mg to 1500 mg, and 850 mg to 2550 mg, indicate that there is a lack of dose proportionality with increasing doses, which is due to decreased absorption rather than an alteration in elimination. Food decreases the extent of and slightly delays the absorption of metformin, as shown by approximately a 40% lower mean peak plasma concentration, a 25% lower AUC in plasma concentration versus time curve, and a 35 minute prolongation of time to peak plasma concentration following administration of a single 850 mg tablet of metformin with food, compared to the same tablet strength administered fasting. The clinical relevance of these decreases is unknown.


Pioglitazone hydrochloride

The mean apparent volume of distribution (V/F) of pioglitazone following single-dose administration is 0.63 ± 0.41 (mean ± SD) L/kg of body weight. Pioglitazone is extensively protein bound (> 99%) in human serum, principally to serum albumin. Pioglitazone also binds to other serum proteins, but with lower affinity. Metabolites M-III and M-IV also are extensively bound (> 98%) to serum albumin.

Metformin hydrochloride

The apparent volume of distribution (V/F) of metformin following single oral doses of 850 mg averaged 654 ± 358 L. Metformin is negligibly bound to plasma proteins. Metformin partitions into erythrocytes, most likely as a function of time. At usual clinical doses and dosing schedules of metformin, steady-state plasma concentrations of metformin are reached within 24 - 48 hours and are generally <1 µg/mL. During controlled clinical trials, maximum metformin plasma levels did not exceed 5 µg/mL, even at maximum doses.

Metabolism, Elimination and Excretion:

Pioglitazone hydrochloride

Pioglitazone is extensively metabolized by hydroxylation and oxidation; the metabolites also partly convert to glucuronide or sulfate conjugates. Metabolites M-II and M-IV (hydroxy derivatives of pioglitazone) and M-III (keto derivative of pioglitazone) are pharmacologically active in animal models of type 2 diabetes. In addition to pioglitazone, M-III and M-IV are the principal drug-related species found in human serum following multiple dosing. At steady-state, in both healthy volunteers and in patients with type 2 diabetes, pioglitazone comprises approximately 30% to 50% of the total peak serum concentrations and 20% to 25% of the total AUC.

In vitro data demonstrate that multiple CYP isoforms are involved in the metabolism of pioglitazone. The cytochrome P450 isoforms involved are CYP2C8 and, to a lesser degree, CYP3A4 with additional contributions from a variety of other isoforms including the mainly extrahepatic CYP1A1. In vivo studies of pioglitazone in combination with P450 inhibitors and substrates have been performed (see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions, Pioglitazone hydrochloride ). Urinary 6β-hydroxycortisol/cortisol ratios measured in patients treated with pioglitazone showed that pioglitazone is not a strong CYP3A4 enzyme inducer.

Following oral administration, approximately 15% to 30% of the pioglitazone dose is recovered in the urine. Renal elimination of pioglitazone is negligible and the drug is excreted primarily as metabolites and their conjugates. It is presumed that most of the oral dose is excreted into the bile either unchanged or as metabolites and eliminated in the feces.

The mean serum half-life of pioglitazone and total pioglitazone ranges from 3 to 7 hours and 16 to 24 hours, respectively. Pioglitazone has an apparent clearance, CL/F, calculated to be 5 to 7 L/hr.

Metformin hydrochloride

Intravenous single-dose studies in normal subjects demonstrate that metformin is excreted unchanged in the urine and does not undergo hepatic metabolism (no metabolites have been identified in humans) nor biliary excretion. Renal clearance is approximately 3.5 times greater than creatinine clearance which indicates that tubular secretion is the major route of metformin elimination. Following oral administration, approximately 90% of the absorbed drug is eliminated via the renal route within the first 24 hours, with a plasma elimination half-life of approximately 6.2 hours. In blood, the elimination half-life is approximately 17.6 hours, suggesting that the erythrocyte mass may be a compartment of distribution.

Special Populations

Renal Insufficiency:

Pioglitazone hydrochloride

The serum elimination half-life of pioglitazone, M-III and M-IV remains unchanged in patients with moderate (creatinine clearance 30 to 60 mL/min) to severe (creatinine clearance < 30 mL/min) renal impairment when compared to normal subjects.

Metformin hydrochloride

In patients with decreased renal function (based on creatinine clearance), the plasma and blood half-life of metformin is prolonged and the renal clearance is decreased in proportion to the decrease in creatinine clearance (see CONTRAINDICATIONS and WARNINGS, Metformin hydrochloride , also see GLUCOPHAGE® prescribing information, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, Pharmacokinetics). Since metformin is contraindicated in patients with renal impairment, ACTOPLUS MET is also contraindicated in these patients.

Hepatic Insufficiency:

Pioglitazone hydrochloride

Compared with normal controls, subjects with impaired hepatic function (Child-Pugh Grade B/C) have an approximate 45% reduction in pioglitazone and total pioglitazone mean peak concentrations but no change in the mean AUC values.

Therapy with ACTOPLUS MET should not be initiated if the patient exhibits clinical evidence of active liver disease or serum transaminase levels (ALT) exceed 2.5 times the upper limit of normal (see PRECAUTIONS, General: Pioglitazone hydrochloride ).

Metformin hydrochloride

No pharmacokinetic studies of metformin have been conducted in subjects with hepatic insufficiency.


Pioglitazone hydrochloride

In healthy elderly subjects, peak serum concentrations of pioglitazone and total pioglitazone are not significantly different, but AUC values are slightly higher and the terminal half-life values slightly longer than for younger subjects. These changes were not of a magnitude that would be considered clinically relevant.

Metformin hydrochloride

Limited data from controlled pharmacokinetic studies of metformin in healthy elderly subjects suggest that total plasma clearance is decreased, the half-life is prolonged, and Cmax is increased, compared to healthy young subjects. From these data, it appears that the change in metformin pharmacokinetics with aging is primarily accounted for by a change in renal function (see GLUCOPHAGE® prescribing information, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, Special Populations, Geriatrics).

ACTOPLUS MET treatment should not be initiated in patients ≥ 80 years of age unless measurement of creatinine clearance demonstrates that renal function is not reduced (see WARNINGS, Metformin hydrochloride and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION ; also see GLUCOPHAGE® prescribing information).


Pioglitazone hydrochloride

Pharmacokinetic data in the pediatric population are not available.

Metformin hydrochloride

After administration of a single oral metformin 500 mg tablet with food, geometric mean metformin Cmax and AUC differed less than 5% between pediatric type 2 diabetic patients (12 to 16 years of age) and gender- and weight-matched healthy adults (20 to 45 years of age), and all with normal renal function.


Pioglitazone hydrochloride

As monotherapy and in combination with sulfonylurea, metformin, or insulin, pioglitazone improved glycemic control in both males and females. The mean Cmax and AUC values were increased 20% to 60% in females. In controlled clinical trials, hemoglobin A1C (A1C) decreases from baseline were generally greater for females than for males (average mean difference in A1C 0.5%). Since therapy should be individualized for each patient to achieve glycemic control, no dose adjustment is recommended based on gender alone.

Metformin hydrochloride

Metformin pharmacokinetic parameters did not differ significantly between normal subjects and patients with type 2 diabetes when analyzed according to gender (males = 19, females = 16). Similarly, in controlled clinical studies in patients with type 2 diabetes, the antihyperglycemic effect of metformin was comparable in males and females.


Pioglitazone hydrochloride

Pharmacokinetic data among various ethnic groups are not available.

Metformin hydrochloride

No studies of metformin pharmacokinetic parameters according to race have been performed. In controlled clinical studies of metformin in patients with type 2 diabetes, the antihyperglycemic effect was comparable in whites (n=249), blacks (n=51), and Hispanics (n=24).

Drug-Drug Interactions

Co-administration of a single dose of metformin (1000 mg) and pioglitazone after 7 days of pioglitazone (45 mg) did not alter the pharmacokinetics of the single dose of metformin. Specific pharmacokinetic drug interaction studies with ACTOPLUS MET have not been performed, although such studies have been conducted with the individual pioglitazone and metformin components.

Pioglitazone hydrochloride

The following drugs were studied in healthy volunteers with co-administration of pioglitazone 45 mg once daily. Results are listed below:

Oral Contraceptives: Co-administration of pioglitazone (45 mg once daily) and an oral contraceptive (1 mg norethindrone plus 0.035 mg ethinyl estradiol once daily) for 21 days, resulted in 11% and 11-14% decrease in ethinyl estradiol AUC (0-24h) and Cmax respectively. There were no significant changes in norethindrone AUC (0-24h) and Cmax. In view of the high variability of ethinyl estradiol pharmacokinetics, the clinical significance of this finding is unknown.

Midazolam: Administration of pioglitazone for 15 days followed by a single 7.5 mg dose of midazolam syrup resulted in a 26% reduction in midazolam Cmax and AUC.

Nifedipine ER: Co-administration of pioglitazone for 7 days with 30 mg nifedipine ER administered orally once daily for 4 days to male and female volunteers resulted in a ratio of least square mean (90% CI) values for unchanged nifedipine of 0.83 (0.73 - 0.95) for Cmax and 0.88 (0.80 - 0.96) for AUC. In view of the high variability of nifedipine pharmacokinetics, the clinical significance of this finding is unknown.

Ketoconazole: Co-administration of pioglitazone for 7 days with ketoconazole 200 mg administered twice daily resulted in a ratio of least square mean (90% CI) values for unchanged pioglitazone of 1.14 (1.06 - 1.23) for Cmax, 1.34 (1.26 - 1.41) for AUC and 1.87 (1.71 - 2.04) for Cmin.

Atorvastatin Calcium: Co-administration of pioglitazone for 7 days with atorvastatin calcium (LIPITOR®) 80 mg once daily resulted in a ratio of least square mean (90% CI) values for unchanged pioglitazone of 0.69 (0.57 - 0.85) for Cmax, 0.76 (0.65 - 0.88) for AUC and 0.96 (0.87 - 1.05) for Cmin. For unchanged atorvastatin the ratio of least square mean (90% CI) values were 0.77 (0.66 - 0.90) for Cmax, 0.86 (0.78 - 0.94) for AUC and 0.92 (0.82 - 1.02) for Cmin.

Cytochrome P450: See PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions, Pioglitazone hydrochloride

Gemfibrozil: Concomitant administration of gemfibrozil (oral 600 mg twice daily), an inhibitor of CYP2C8, with pioglitazone (oral 30 mg) in 10 healthy volunteers pre-treated for 2 days prior with gemfibrozil (oral 600 mg twice daily) resulted in pioglitazone exposure (AUC0-24) being 226% of the pioglitazone exposure in the absence of gemfibrozil (see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions, Pioglitazone hydrochloride ).1

Rifampin: Concomitant administration of rifampin (oral 600 mg once daily), an inducer of CYP2C8 with pioglitazone (oral 30 mg) in 10 healthy volunteers pre-treated for 5 days prior with rifampin (oral 600 mg once daily) resulted in a decrease in the AUC of pioglitazone by 54% (see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions, Pioglitazone hydrochloride ).2

In other drug-drug interaction studies, pioglitazone had no significant effect on the pharmacokinetics of fexofenadine, glipizide, digoxin, warfarin, ranitidine HCl or theophylline.

Metformin hydrochloride

See PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions, Metformin hydrochloride

Pharmacodynamics and Clinical Effects

Pioglitazone hydrochloride

Clinical studies demonstrate that pioglitazone improves insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant patients. Pioglitazone enhances cellular responsiveness to insulin, increases insulin-dependent glucose disposal, improves hepatic sensitivity to insulin, and improves dysfunctional glucose homeostasis. In patients with type 2 diabetes, the decreased insulin resistance produced by pioglitazone results in lower plasma glucose concentrations, lower plasma insulin levels, and lower A1C values. Based on results from an open-label extension study, the glucose-lowering effects of pioglitazone appear to persist for at least one year. In controlled clinical studies, pioglitazone in combination with metformin had an additive effect on glycemic control.

Patients with lipid abnormalities were included in placebo-controlled monotherapy clinical studies with pioglitazone. Overall, patients treated with pioglitazone had mean decreases in triglycerides, mean increases in HDL cholesterol, and no consistent mean changes in LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol compared to the placebo group. A similar pattern of results was seen in 16-week and 24-week combination therapy studies of pioglitazone with metformin.

Clinical Studies

There have been no clinical efficacy studies conducted with ACTOPLUS MET. However, the efficacy and safety of the separate components have been previously established and the co-administration of the separate components has been evaluated for efficacy and safety in two clinical studies. These clinical studies established an added benefit of pioglitazone in patients with inadequately controlled type 2 diabetes while on metformin therapy. Bioequivalence of ACTOPLUS MET with co-administered pioglitazone and metformin tablets was demonstrated for both ACTOPLUS MET strengths (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism).

Clinical Trials of Pioglitazone Add-on Therapy in Patients Not Adequately Controlled on Metformin

Two treatment-randomized, controlled clinical studies in patients with type 2 diabetes were conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of pioglitazone plus metformin. Both studies included patients receiving metformin, either alone or in combination with another antihyperglycemic agent, who had inadequate glycemic control. All other antihyperglycemic agents were discontinued prior to starting study treatment. In the first study, 328 patients received either 30 mg of pioglitazone or placebo once daily for 16 weeks in addition to their established metformin regimen. In the second study, 827 patients received either 30 mg or 45 mg of pioglitazone once daily for 24 weeks in addition to their established metformin regimen.

In the first study, the addition of pioglitazone 30 mg once daily to metformin treatment significantly reduced the mean A1C by 0.83% and the mean FPG by 37.7 mg/dL at Week 16 from that observed with metformin alone. In the second study, the mean reductions from Baseline at Week 24 in A1C were 0.80% and 1.01% for the 30 mg and 45 mg doses, respectively. Mean reductions from Baseline in FPG were 38.2 mg/dL and 50.7 mg/dL, respectively. Based on these reductions in A1C and FPG (Table 2), the addition of pioglitazone to metformin resulted in significant improvements in glycemic control irrespective of the metformin dose.

Table 2. Glycemic Parameters in 16-Week and 24-Week Pioglitazone Hydrochloride + Metformin Hydrochloride Combination Studies
Parameter Placebo + metformin Pioglitazone 30 mg + metformin
* significant change from Baseline p ≤ 0.050.
significant difference from placebo plus metformin, p ≤ 0.050.
‡ significant difference from 30 mg pioglitazone, p ≤ 0.050.
(a) patients who achieved an A1C ≤ 6.1% or ≥ 0.6% decrease from Baseline.
(b) patients who achieved a decrease in FPG by ≥ 30 mg/dL.
16-Week Study
A1C (%)    N=153    N=161
   Baseline mean 9.77 9.92
   Mean change from Baseline at 16 Weeks 0.19 -0.64*, †
   Difference in change from placebo + metformin -0.83
Responder rate (%) (a) 21.6 54.0
FPG (mg/dL)    N=157    N=165
   Baseline mean 259.9 254.4
   Mean change from Baseline at 16 Weeks -5.2 -42.8*, †
   Difference in change from placebo + metformin -37.7
Responder rate (%) (b) 23.6 59.4
Parameter Pioglitazone 30 mg + metformin Pioglitazone 45 mg + metformin
24-Week Study
A1C (%)    N=400    N=398
   Baseline mean 9.88 9.81
   Mean Change from Baseline at 24 Weeks -0.80* -1.01*
Responder rate (%) (a) 55.8 63.3
FPG (mg/dL)    N=398    N=399
   Baseline mean 232.5 232.1
   Mean Change from Baseline at 24 Weeks -38.2* -50.7*, ‡
Responder rate (%) (b) 52.3 63.7

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