Health Team

UNC Doctor: Drug's Risks Not That High

Posted May 24, 2007 6:52 p.m. EDT

— 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.