Withdrawn diabetes drug for type 2 diabetes still being prescribed

Added 06/09/2010

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Around two million people in the UK suffer from type 2 diabetes. Popular diabetes drug, Avandia, has been used to treat type 2 diabetes for the last decade, but experts have advised to cease prescribing Avandia on the NHS. Two months ago the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) advised the suspension of Avandia, but BBC Panorama has revealed that the diabetes drug is still being prescribed.

Studies have shown that although Avandia is effective in treating type 2 diabetes, it can cause other health problems such as an increased risk of heart attacks and heart failure. But GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the diabetes drug, has assured that it is ‘safe and effective when it is prescribed properly’.

When the withdrawal was announced, it was not made public, but the MHRA sent letters to healthcare professionals advising them to use alternative medication for type 2 diabetes patients if they were at risk of heart failure. But a clinical pharmacologist at the University of East Anglia found that patients taking Avandia are at a greater risk of heart failure whether they already have heart problems or not.

Avandia became the leading drug for type 2 diabetes ten years ago. Last year, a million people in the UK were taking the drug and over the years GSK has earned billions of pounds from the sale of Avandia. GSK supported the drug by saying: ‘Patient safety is our first priority. We have carried out an extensive research programme, involving more than 50,000 patients to analyse the safety and benefits of Avandia and continue to believe it is safe and effective when it is prescribed appropriately.’

Later this month, the European Medicines Agency will decide whether to restrict Avandia prescriptions or withdraw the diabetes drug altogether.