TZDs: Dangerous Diabetes Medications



The launch of new type 2 diabetes drugs is understandable.

Aside from being the seventh topmost cause of death in the country, diabetes is also an impetus to other deadly diseases like heart disease and stroke and kidney failure.

A growing number of Americans are also believed to have the disease.

From 1980 to 2010, Americans diagnosed with diabetes increased more than 100 folds: 163 percent for men and 103 percent for women. In 2010, 25.8 million Americans had the disease.

Under this national health landscape, thiazolidinediones (TZDs) were born and became three of the most dangerous diabetes drugs introduced in the U.S. market.

TZDs include pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia) and troglitazone (Rezulin). This family of drugs works by modifying fat tissue to create an insulin-sensitizing effect.

Introduced in late 1990s, TZDs were well-received by medical practitioners and researchers alike. They were heavily promoted in 1999 until the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) barred Rezulin after its users developed liver failure and eventually died while or after taking the drug.

In 2007, studies linked Avandia to heart failures and deaths due to cardiovascular problems. It was, however, not until in mid-2011 that the FDA put into effect a strict regulation concerning Avandia’s use.

It was also in 2011 when the FDA confirmed Actos bladder cancer link. Actos now carries black box warning for heart failure and bladder cancer. Its variant ActoPlus Met has additional boxed warning for lactic acidosis due to its metformin component. Actos, however, is still and the only shelf-available diabetic pill from TZDs family.

With the publication of British Medical Journal’s (BMJ) study late last month in unison with a growing number of Actos users filing lawsuits, FDA is expected to effect stringent safety measures against the prescription of Actos. BMJ’s study revealed that Actos caused its users an 83 percent increased risk for bladder cancer, two-folds than believed earlier.

It is, however, pertinent to point that as early as 2001, Health Canada has already found heart failure as common side effect between Actos and Avandia.

It, however, took the FDA six years to merit both TZDs a black box warning for congestive heart failure. Bladder cancer is unique to Actos.

Aside from the aforementioned side effects, TZDs also cause new and permanent fat cells, which leads to double heart failure risk among younger patients even in the absence of heart failure history.

To this date, lawsuits are being filed against Actos maker Takeda while Avandia maker GlaxoSmithKline start settling some charges that are believed to cost the British drug maker around $6 billion.



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