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New Study Suggests Avandia Worse than Actos, Glaxo Cries Foul

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Toronto, ON: New research out of Canada pertaining to Avandia side effects and Avandia risks appears to suggest that patients taking Avandia have a greater chance for developing heart failure—and have a greater risk of death—than those taking rival type 2 diabetes drug Actos.

Heart AttackAvandia, made by GlaxoSmithKline (Glaxo) and Actos, manufactured by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., are both drugs designed to manage type 2 diabetes. At various times Actos has been hailed as a safer alternative to Avandia, whereas Glaxo has maintained that Avandia is no greater a risk than other type 2 diabetes drugs.

According to a summary appearing August 19 in Bloomberg News, researchers in Canada arrived at their findings via a review of health records funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Prescription data for 39,736 patients aged 66 and older who were enrolled in the Ontario Public Drug Benefit Program were scrutinized over a six-year period from April 2002 to March 2008.

The study found that 6.9 percent of patients on Avandia died, or were hospitalized for heart attack or heart failure, vs. 5.3 percent of those who were taking Actos. Further, among older diabetics Actos was found to be associated with a lower risk of heart failure and death than Avandia.

Researchers were unclear as to what the difference might be between the two drugs, although they observed that Actos appeared to improve cholesterol levels and may provide anti-inflammatory and other beneficial effects.

The research was led by David Juurlink, head of pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto and appeared August 19 in the British Medical Journal. In an accompanying editorial penned by Corinne de Vries from the University of Bath and David Russelle-Jones from the University of Surrey, it was noted that patients on Avandia had been diagnosed with diabetes for a longer period of time than those patients given Actos—and the Actos patients may have been healthier when the study began.

A spokesperson for Glaxo said that the findings conflict with three previous studies and was flawed due to its failure to allow for different doses of the drugs.

According to Bloomberg News both drugs are known to increase the risk of heart failure and carry warnings to that end on their respective labels. However, debate over the apparent differences in the two drugs remains. Avandia was at one time the best-selling diabetes drug in the world until a 2007 study linking Avandia to heart attacks sent sales plummeting 63 percent lower, from a peak of $2.3 billion in 2006.


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