Objective: Reduced insulin sensitivity associated with fasting hyperproinsulinaemia is common in type 2 diabetes. Proinsulinaemia is an established independent cardiovascular risk factor. The objective was to investigate fasting and postprandial release of insulin, proinsulin (PI) and 32-33 split proinsulin (SPI) before and after sensitization to insulin with pioglitazone compared to a group treated with glibenclamide. Design and patients: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Twenty-two type 2 diabetic patients were recruited along with 10 normal subjects. After 4 weeks washout, patients received a mixed meal and were assigned to receive pioglitazone or glibenclamide for 20 weeks, after which patients received another identical test meal. The treatment regimes were designed to maintain glycaemic control (HbA1c) at pretreatment levels so that ß-cells received an equivalent glycaemic stimulus for both test meals. Measurements: Plasma insulin, PI, SPI and glucose concentrations were measured over an 8-h postprandial period. The output of PI and SPI was measured as the integrated postprandial response (area under the curve, AUC). Results: Pioglitazone treatment resulted in a significant reduction in fasting levels of PI and SPI compared to those of the controls. Postprandially, pioglitazone treatment had no effect on the insulin AUC response to the meal but significantly reduced the PI and SPI AUCs. Glibenclamide increased fasting insulin and the postprandial insulin AUC but had no effect on the PI and SPI AUCs. Conclusions: Sensitization to insulin with pioglitazone reduces the amount of insulin precursor species present in fasting and postprandially and may reduce cardiovascular risk. © 2007 The Authors.