Diabetes drugs sent thousands to emergency room last year

Diabetes drugs such as Actos and Avandia are among the four categories of medications responsible for two-thirds of emergency room visits in people over the age of 65, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Other categories that have been found to cause problems include the blood thinner warfarin and oral anti-platlet drugs like Plavix, both of which are taken for heart disease.

The study reviewed nearly 100,000 emergency hospitalizations for adverse drug reactions, such as allergic reactions, and found that many could have been avoided with proper medical follow-ups, monitoring and patient education. For example, blood-sugar lowering drugs can cause hypoglycemia if blood sugar levels drop too low. This often leads to emergency situations for patients.

Diabetes drugs have also been linked to other serious problems in patients. Last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) severely restricted the use of Avandia after studies linked the drug to heart attacks, many of which were fatal. The FDA also recently issued a safety warning on Actos after studies showed the drug when used long term may put users at risk for bladder cancer.

To help safeguard against possible emergency situations, patients on insulin, blood sugar-lowering medications, warfarin, or oral anti-platlet drugs should be sure to have both oral and written instruction from their doctors on dosage and how the prescribed medication should be taken. Patients should also check the label on the medication once it’s prescribed to be sure the drug and dosage match what the doctor prescribed.

Take time to ask the pharmacist about side effects associated with the drugs prescribed for you. Report back to your doctor for blood tests, which could indicate whether medication dosages need to be adjusted. And, don’t take any medications without first discussing them with your doctor, especially if you are already taking at least one other prescription medication or over-the-counter pain relievers, vitamin supplements, or herbal remedies.

ACTOS is a trademark of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and used under license by Takeda Pharmaceuticals America, Inc.

AVANDIA is a registered trademark of GlaxoSmithKline.