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Calm Urged for Avandia Patients

No Urgent Need to Stop Avandia, Some Experts Say; More Study Needed
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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 WebMD.

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 any more."

Andrew Drexler, MD, director of UCLA's Gonda Diabetes Center, is seeing the same reaction.

"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 agrees.

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People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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