Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

More Broken Bones With Actos, Avandia

Fracture Risk Doubles in Diabetes Patients Taking Actos or Avandia
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 28, 2008 -- The "glitazone" diabetes drugs Actos and Avandia may double or triple the risk of broken bones after a year or two of use.

The finding comes from Swiss researchers who analyzed 12 years of data on U.K. diabetes patients. They compared the 1,020 patients who suffered some kind of fracture to 3,728 matched patients who did not break any bones.

Over the course of the study, most of the patients took several diabetes drugs. But those who refilled their Actos or Avandia prescriptions eight times or more -- about 12 to 18 months of use -- had nearly twice the fracture risk of other patients.

And those who refilled their Actos or Avandia prescriptions 15 times or more -- two or more years of treatment -- nearly tripled their risk of fracture, found Christophe R. Meier, PhD, head of pharmacoepidemiology research at University Hospital Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues.

"We found a very strong signal here for higher risk of fractures in people taking glitazones," Meier tells WebMD. "Our evidence fits together nicely with animal models and clinical reports suggesting that these drugs have a detrimental effect on bone. And we did not find any increased risk for other diabetes drugs, so all together, it looks like something really is going on here."

(What does your doctor have to say about these risks? Talk with others on WebMD's Type 2 Diabetes Support Group message board.)

Animal studies reported late last year strongly suggest that Actos and Avandia promote bone loss. Signs that women taking Avandia might be at increased risk of upper arm and hand fracture last year led the drug's manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, to voluntarily issue a letter warning doctors that Avandia might increase fracture risk.

The Meier study, all by itself, looked at too few patients to prove anything. But University of Pittsburgh researcher Jane A. Cauley, DrPH, who has studied bone loss in people with diabetes, agrees with Meier that it adds to a growing body of evidence.

"These animal and laboratory studies show these drugs interfere with the cells that grow new bone," Cauley tells WebMD. "That there is basic research supporting this study is important."

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

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.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner