The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted today not to remove the Type 2 diabetes drug Avandia from the market, despite studies that indicate the medication puts users at an elevated risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke. But the agency did put tight restrictions on prescriptions of the drug. Meanwhile, European drug regulators announced today they will suspend the drug’s sales throughout Europe.
In order for Americans to continue to receive the drug, their doctors must attest to and document their patients’ eligibility. Patients will also have to review statements describing the cardiovascular safety concerns associated with Avandia and acknowledge they understand the risks. The FDA says it anticipates the tight restrictions will likely have a devastating impact on GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Avandia, the sales of which topped $2 billion last year, down from $3.2 billion in 2006.
Avandia, known by the generic rosiglitazone, is in a class of drugs known as thiazolidinediones, or TZDs. It is intended to be used in conjunction with diet and exercise to improve blood sugar control in patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Rosiglitazone is also available in combination with other diabetes medications, such as metformin under the brand name Avandament or glimepiride under the name Avandaryl.
Despite studies that suggest as many as 100,000 heart attacks may have been caused by Avandia, GSK has long insisted that its billion-dollar drug is safe, going so far as to hold its own study comparing Avandia with a similar medication, Actos. The FDA has ordered GSK to end the study.
The FDA also ordered GSK to convene an independent group of scientists to review key aspects of the company’s clinical trial known as RECORD, which studied the cardiovascular safety of Avandia compared to standard diabetes drugs. During a review of the data, the FDA questioned GSK’s potential bias in the identification of cardiovascular events.
The FDA is continuing to review complaints on the medication. Any side effects with Avandia, or any other medication, should be reported to the FDA Medwatch Adverse Event Reporting Program at www.FDA.gov/Medwatch.