Studies Suggest Heart Risk With Diabetes Drug Avandia

"GSK also has updated its prior meta-analysis to include data from 52 clinical trials, and it does not show an increase in [angina]," GlaxoSmithKline wrote in a statement. "Review of these studies with tighter confidence intervals have risk ratios that are very close to one, indicating no difference in the risk of [heart attack] between rosiglitazone [Avandia] and pioglitazone [Actos]."

Call for Action

Doctors prescribe Avandia to lower blood sugar in diabetes patients, but there are more than a dozen classes of diabetes treatments available that are now used as alternatives to Avandia, many experts said.

"Almost everyone can see the clear difference between public health and public endangerment," said Wolfe.

According to Nissen, other potentially safer alternatives to Avandia -- such as its class equivalent Actos -- suggest Avandia is not a necessary medication for a majority of diabetes patients. There are no unique benefits to Avandia, he said.

"If [Avandia] was the only drug in the class, [we] could have an argument to keep it around," said Nissen.

Nissen said a 2007 presentation to the FDA advisory board by Graham estimated that more than 200,000 patients died from taking Avandia since possible cardiovascular effects of the drug were first reported.

"I think the conclusion is pretty clear," said Nissen. "Now let's get on with it. Get this drug off the market."

Dr. Steve Nissen is a paid consultant for pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Nissen said he donates all compensation to various organizations. Dr. Domenic Sica is a consultant and investigator for Takeda in the area of hypertension.

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