Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

FDA Restricts Use of Diabetes Drug Avandia

FDA Decides Not to Ban Avandia, but Puts Restrictions on How It’s Used
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 23, 2010 -- The FDA will not ban Avandia -- but stringent restrictions will make it far harder for doctors to prescribe the safety-troubled diabetes drug.

The European Medicines Agency took harsher action. European sales of Avandia-containing drugs will be suspended over the next few months, although the agency did not formally withdraw approval.

The 600,000 U.S. patients currently taking Avandia can continue to take the drug only if their doctors officially attest that their patients understand the risks, that the drug is helping them, and that no other diabetes drug can keep their blood sugar under control.

New Avandia prescriptions can only be written for patients who, for medical reasons, cannot take Actos. Actos, a diabetes medication in the same class as Avandia, does not cause the heart problems linked to Avandia.

"Avandia will be available to new patients only if they cannot achieve [blood sugar] control on other agents and cannot take Actos," FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, said at a news conference. "Current patients can continue taking Avandia only if they benefit and understand the risks."

Avandia maker GlaxoSmithKline will be required to establish a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program. Patients, their doctors, and their pharmacists will have to enroll in the program in order to receive, prescribe, or sell Avandia.

Avandia Heart Risks Clouded by Uncertainty

Hamburg admitted that FDA experts are split over how to interpret the scientific evidence suggesting that Avandia damages the heart. Both Avandia and Actos increase the risk of heart failure. But evidence suggests that only Avandia increases risk of heart attack.

Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, noted that an FDA advisory panel last July split over the issue of whether the evidence proved Avandia unsafe.

"In and outside the agency there is mostly agreement on the facts, but not on the weight of the safety analysis," Woodcock said at the news conference. "This has resulted in different conclusions, not only inside FDA but among outside experts. This reflects uncertainty in the science that tells us whether or not Avandia causes these problems."

Questions about Avandia heart safety should have been answered by the RECORD study, which Avandia maker GlaxoSmithKline conducted at the behest of the European drug agency. This study found Avandia to be safe, but critics have lambasted the study's poor design. Moreover, an FDA analysis suggests that the study failed to investigate all possible heart attacks in study patients.

Today's FDA action will require GlaxoSmithKline to convene a panel of independent scientists to review the RECORD data. That review may cause the FDA to lift the new Avandia restrictions -- or to ban the drug.

The FDA today also officially ended a study called TIDE, which was directly comparing Avandia and Actos. The FDA decided that the study, which already had been suspended, posed too much risk to participants.

In a statement, GlaxoSmithKline says it "continues to believe that Avandia is an important treatment for patients with type 2 diabetes," but that it will work with the FDA and the European Medicines Agency to implement their decisions.

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!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

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

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article