Diabetes Alert: Avandia May Be Banned In Europe

European regulators will decide by September if Avandia will be allowed to stay on the market there. The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) said on July 23 that it is still reviewing GlaxoSmithKline’s controversial diabetes drug, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks.

Since 2000, the EMEA has contra-indicated Avandia for anyone with heart failure or a history of heart failure. Since then, use of Avandia, as well as Avandame (Avandia in combination with metformin) and Avaglim (Avandia in combination with glimepiride), has been further restricted several times by the EMA by new warnings and contra-indications on their use in patients with heart problems.

The EMEA initiated a new review of Avandia earlier this month on the request of the European Commission following publication of studies questioning the cardiovascular safety of the medicine.

In the US, a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel took up Avandia last week. Since 2007, Avandia has borne a black box label – the FDA’s most urgent safety warning – regarding its heart attack risks. An FDA advisory panel met last week to consider further restrictions on the controversial diabetes drug.

According to a report in The New York Times, 12 of the panel’s 33 members voted that Avandia should be withdrawn; 10 voted that its sales should be restricted and the warnings on its label enhanced; 7 voted only to support enhanced warnings on the drug’s label; and 3 voted that the drug should continue to be sold with its present warnings unchanged.

The FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of such panels, but does so in most cases. However, the lack of unity among panel members in the case of Avandia makes it hard to predict what the agency will do, The Times said.

As I reported yesterday, the FDA has ordered GlaxoSmithKline to halt enrollment in a study called TIDE (Thiazolidinedione Intervention With Vitamin D Evaluation) over safety concerns. TIDE was designed to compare the long-term effects of Avandia with another diabetes drug called Actos.

Actos has not raised as many safety concerns as Avandia. For some time now, scientists inside and outside the FDA have opposed TIDE, saying it is unethical to compare Avandia, with its known cardiac risks, with a seemingly safer alternative.

Incidentally, India has already suspended all participation in the TIDE trial in the country. In India, at least 20 cities including Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad had enrolled over 150-200 subjects earlier this year for conducting these clinical trials, which are part of the global post-marketing studies to asses its safety risks.

According to The Boston Globe, the FDA said it halted recruitment in TIDE because it needs time to study new evidence of the Avandia’s risks. The agency is demanding that Glaxo update physicians and ethics oversight boards involved in the trial regarding all new safety information about the drug. The agency has not indicated how long the enrollment halt would last.

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