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Diabetes drug may cause heart problems in elderly patients

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For seniors with Type 2 diabetes, the drug Avandia may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and death, according to a study published by the American Medical Association. Researchers compared the health records of patients whose average age was 74 and found that Avandia (rosiglitazone) did more damage to the heart than another popular diabetes drug, Actos.

Study participants were monitored for up to three years following the start of treatment with the drug. Researchers found that, compared to those on Actos, patients taking Avandia were 1.27 times more likely to suffer a stroke, 1.25 times more likely to develop heart failure and 1.14 times more likely to die. “For every 60 people you treat with rosiglitazone, one extra person in that group is going to have one of those bad things happen to them because they’re taking Avandia instead of Actos,” said David Graham of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

“Accumulating concerns about rosiglitazone make it difficult to advance a cogent argument why, exactly, a patient might want to receive the drug or why a physician would choose to prescribe it when there is an available and quite possibly safer alternative,” wrote David Juurlink, a specialist in internal medicine and clinical pharmacology, in an editorial accompanying the JAMA article.

The suspect Avandia’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, has defended the drug and pointed to clinical trials that, the company says, show Avandia to be safe. The FDA will be meeting this week to review the findings published in JAMA.


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