The Basics of Avandia

Avandia (rosiglitazone) is an oral prescription medication used by people with type 2 diabetes for the control of blood sugar. The medication is not for Type 1 diabetes and is not recommended to be taken with other diabetic medicines, including insulin. The drug works by making cells more sensitive to insulin, a substance naturally made by the body, to control blood sugar levels. In 1999, Avandia was hailed as an easy cure for Type 2 diabetes and it became a very popularly prescribed drug. In fact, when the drug was most popular, 13 million prescriptions were written for Avandia and sales for the active ingredient in the drug, rosiglitazone, exceeded $3 billion.

Avandia carries side effects such as cold symptoms, headache, or backache. Serious side effects include hives, difficulty breathing, swelling, shortness of breath, pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, weakness, nausea, itching, and changes in vision. A couple of medications that should not be used with Avandia include gemfibrozil and rifampin. People with congestive heart failure, heart disease, history of heart attack or stroke, fluid retention, eye problems caused by diabetes, or liver disease should be very cautious when using this drug.

In May 2007, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study indicating that Avandia greatly increases the risk of a heart attack. The FDA’s advisory panel came to the same conclusion. However, instead of removing the drug from shelves, the FDA increased the warning label to let users know of the risks involved. In June 2010, a follow-up study showed that when people over the age of 65 took Avandia, they were at a greater risk for heart failure, stroke, and death. Other serious side effects of Avandia are fractures for women, specifically in the arms, hands, feet, ankles, and lower legs; edema; angina; macular edema; liver problems; and weight gain.

Since 2007, over 13,000 federal and state lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturer of Avandia. GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer, settled more than 700 lawsuits in May 2010 for nearly $60 million dollars and in June of that same year, $460 million more were paid in settlements. In 2012, the company plead guilty for neglecting to include clinical data on Avandia and agreed to a settlement of $3 billion. To date, there are still nearly 4,000 pending Avandia injury lawsuits against the company.