Calm Urged for Avandia Patients
No Urgent Need to Stop Avandia, Some Experts Say; More Study Needed
May 24, 2007 - There's no urgent need for type 2 diabetes patients to stop
taking Avandia -- even if the drug really does increase the risk of heart
attack, some medical experts caution.
Experts -- including the doctor who sounded the Avandia alarm -- tell WebMD
there's no need for patients to panic.
The concern comes from the early release of a report in The New England
Journal of Medicine(NEJM) suggesting that Avandia increases a
diabetes patient's already high risk of heart attack by 43%.
Researcher Steven Nissen, MD, is chairman of Cleveland Clinic's
cardiovascular medicine department. Nissen, past president of the American
College of Cardiology, was one of the first doctors to raise the alarm about
the heart risks posed by Vioxx.
Nissen says his findings are valid, but he warns that the data are not
definitive and must be confirmed by further studies.
"What patients need to know is there is some evidence of cardiovascular
harm from Avandia -- but there is not any reason to panic," Nissen tells
Since news of the Nissen study broke on Monday, frightened diabetes patients
have flooded their doctors' phone lines, says Luigi F. Meneghini, MD, MBA,
director of the diabetes treatment center at the University of Miami.
"The way this has been presented has been completely out of proportion.
It has created a lot of hysteria," Meneghini tells WebMD. "Patients
have stopped taking their medications. They don't want to be on this medication
Andrew Drexler, MD, director of UCLA's Gonda Diabetes Center, is seeing the
"We're definitely getting flooded with calls. Everybody wants to know
what to do," Drexler tells WebMD.
So here's what these experts say you should do:
- If you are currently taking Avandia, do not stop taking the drug.
- If you are taking Avandia and have already had a heart attack or heart
trouble, call your doctor to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
If you don't already have a heart problem, the risk from Avandia -- if there
truly turns out to be one -- is not so great that you have to see a doctor
right away. But do make an appointment to discuss the issue.
Calls for Calm in Wake of Avandia Alarm
At least since 2005, the FDA has been aware of the possible heart attack
risk of Avandia. But there's conflicting evidence, including a study of more
than 30,000 diabetes patients in a large health maintenance organization (HMO)
that found no extra heart attacks among Avandia patients.
For this reason, the FDA has decided not to pull Avandia from the market.
Instead, the FDA is working as fast as it can to pull together an expert
advisory panel to weigh all the available data.
The FDA warns patients not to stop taking Avandia on their own. Drexler