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UNC Doctor: Drug's Risks Not That High

Posted May 24, 2007

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— A new report released this week has put some diabetics in limbo about the medication they need.

The FDA recently issued a safety alert for the drug Avandia after an independent research team with the Cleveland Clinic found the drug significantly raised the risk of heart attack or cardiovascular death.

While the FDA did issue an alert, it called the research inconclusive. Avandia is still available.

WRAL Health Team Physician Dr. Allen Mask asked Dr. John Buse, chief of UNC’s Diabetes Care Center, about the real risks.

“The absolute risk to an individual person isn't 30 percent or 40 percent - you know, what's been talked about,” Buse said. “The absolute risk to an individual is less than 1 percent. So if you had a patient on Avandia and it says that the worse reports out there, then that means that your risk went from a 2 percent chance this year of having a heart attack to a 3 percent chance this year of having a heart attack.”

In other words, according to Buse, the only big mistake a patient could make would be to stop the drug on their own.

“That could be a disaster,” he said.

Mask recommends that patients taking Avandia continue using the drug or talk with their doctors about taking another option, such as Actos.

Actos is in the same class of drugs as Avandia, according to Mask. It doesn't cause hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

3 Comments

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  • schoonie79 May 26, 2007

    What this simply boils down to is the FDA is not doing their job. They are so quick to approve medications and then a few months possibly years later its the "Oh wait stop taking this drug because of one thing or another". If the FDA would do their job to begin with and publish all aspects good or bad of the drug then people could make better, more informed choices about their health options with the guidance of their doctor. I may not be a physician but working on an ambulance I do spend quite a lot of time answering questions about medications that people I see are taking. My best piece of advice to anyone is to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor. Do not stop taking your prescribed medications without speaking with your doctor first. It could have detrimental consequences.

  • davido May 25, 2007

    Another problem is that it's often not just 1 drug. People take 5 or 10 prescriptions nowadays! It's not uncommon. It is also not uncommon for a doctor to prescribe 1 drug to alleviate side-effects caused by another drug. So people are not only having reactions to single drugs, but are suffering from drug interactions that haven't been adequately studied, simply because they can't study every combination there is. I'm sure there is a lot of research into drug interaction, but there is so much we don't really know.

    Disclaimer: this is not my field, so please ignore everything I just wrote.

  • THE ETERNAL May 25, 2007

    IT IS REALLY A SHAME THAT DRUGS ARE GIVEN IN THE FIRST PLACE WITHOUT EXAUSTING ALL NATURAL APPROCHES TO HEALTH. AFTER ALL, OUR ANCESTERS SURVIVED PRETTY WELL WITHOUT MAN-MADE DRUGS FOR EONS.