Harvard Health Letter

Ask the doctor: Should I stop taking Avandia?

Q. Because of the recent news about Avandia, my physician has advised me to stop taking it. Is that wise?

A. It's a good idea for all patients with diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels under control, and there's no doubt that Avandia (the generic name is rosiglitazone) is effective in lowering blood sugar. However, in September 2010, the FDA advised people to stop taking the drug unless they couldn't lower their blood sugar with any other treatment. The FDA stated that, while not conclusive, there was considerable evidence that Avandia increased the risk for heart disease and stroke, and of death from these and other cardiovascular conditions. At about the same time, the European Medicines Agency (the European equivalent of the FDA) recommended that all use of the drug be stopped. So your doctor has good cause to be concerned about you taking Avandia.

The FDA didn't simply pull Avandia off the market entirely because in some patients with diabetes, all other treatments are either less effective or produce unacceptable side effects. In my experience, such patients are unusual. So I assume that your doctor has decided that you're like most of my patients, and that there are better ways to manage your blood sugar.

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