Diabetes drug Avandia raises the risk of heart attacks, study suggests

AP Medical Writer

A new analysis links the widely prescribed diabetes drug Avandia to greater risk of heart attack and possibly death.

More than 6 million people worldwide have taken the GlaxoSmithKline drug since it came on the market eight years ago. Pooled results of dozens of studies revealed a 45 percent greater risk of heart attack, according to the analysis, published online Monday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The drug is used to treat Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, which is linked to obesity. It occurs when the body does not make enough insulin or cannot effectively use what it manages to produce.

Avandia helps sensitize the body to insulin and was considered a breakthrough medication for blood-sugar control. Its maker, British-based GlaxoSmithKline PLC, scheduled an afternoon news conference to discuss the report.

The company's stock was down 7 percent in morning trading after the medical journal's report appeared.

Several experts said it was another Vioxx-like example of the government failing to detect a safety problem until millions had taken a drug. Vioxx was a blockbuster arthritis medicine until it was withdrawn in 2004 when heart problems came to light.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had no immediate comment on the report.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)