Although Glaxo SmithKline's diabetes drug Avandia was introduced in 1999, concerns about its safety, due to reports of heart injuries, did not surface until 2007. Until then, the drug had been one of Glaxo's fastest and best selling products chalking up annual revenues of $3 billion. Since the concerns emerged, most notably those related to cardiac problems, Glaxo SmithKline has faced a barrage of lawsuits.
Side Effects of Avandia
Like other thiazolidinediones, Avandia lowers blood sugar levels by making the body tissues sensitive to insulin. Also, Avandia causes weight gain and swelling in patients, which can lead to liver problems. The drug was also found to increase the risk and incidence of heart problems in patients. In September 2007, studies showed that the risk of heart failure in patients on Avandia was almost double the risk in patients who were not using the drug.
A study undertaken by the government showed that as many as 60,000 to 100,000 heart attacks could possibly be attributed to the use of Avandia. The Food and Drug Administration, already under fire for insisting that more research, which could take years to complete, was needed before American consumers could be warned about Avandia's side effects, was forced to issued a safety alert in May of 2007.
The alert warned that there had been sufficient evidence derived from clinical trials that seemed to suggest that there was an increased incidence of heart failure and heart attacks in patients who used Avandia. Today, a black box label warning on Avandia containers cautions patients that the drug may cause or worsen heart failure in patients, and is not advised for use in patients who already have a history of cardiac problems.
There have also been reports suggesting a higher incidence of bone fractures in women who take Avandia. The risk of bone fractures for female Avandia users is higher than the risk for men.
Is Avandia Worth It?
With all the concern over Avandia's health risks, diabetes patients may wonder if they need to stop using the medication and switch to a less risky product. If you are currently on Avandia medication, do not make the decision to switch your medication without consulting your physician. Your doctor may combine different classes of drugs to help you control your diabetes without heath concerns. If you and your physician do decide to switch to other medications because of Avandia's risks, follow your doctor's instructions carefully to allow your body to adjust to the new medication.