Diabetes is one of the most complex medical conditions. As a result, there is an almost endless number of drugs physicians may prescribe to treat or manage the condition. One such drug is Avandia, which has a complicated history in the medical community and has become one of the most controversial medications related to the treatment of diabetes.
Avandia is the creation of British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It also goes by the generic name Rosiglitazone. Avandia was first introduced to the public in 1999. However, in May 2007, Dr. Steven Nissen, chief cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, published an article claiming that the drug increased the risk of heart attack by 43%, citing dozens of clinical trials.
In November of 2007, the FDA placed a “black-box” warning, its harshest warning label, on Avandia, but allowed it to remain on the market. In the years to come, GSK is criticized for its studies on Avandia and accused of tampering with the results of drug trials. By 2010, the U.S. Senate all but bans Avandia as nothing more than a “last resort” drug.
However, in 2013, GSK convinced the FDA to re-examine data on Avandia regarding the drug increasing the risk of heart attack and other cardiac issues compared to other diabetes medications. The FDA has since voted to lift the harsh restrictions on Avandia, making it more widely available for doctors to prescribe to diabetes patients.
Why Is This Prescribed?
Avandia may be prescribed to patients with type 2 diabetes. It’s an oral medication that’s designed to help control blood sugar levels in diabetes patients, usually when those levels are deemed to be too high. Avandia does not help the body to produce more insulin. Instead, it helps the body to respond better to the insulin being already produced.
Avandia is only for those suffering from type 2 diabetes. It should not be used to treat patients with type 1 diabetes. It should also not be prescribed for a patient using insulin, as it will increase the risk of cardiac problems. However, Avandia can be used in conjunction with other medications designed to treat or manage type 2 diabetes.
Avandia is best utilized along with a specific regimen of diet and exercise, and so it may only be prescribed to type 2 diabetes patients capable of keeping up with proper diet and exercise. The drug is designed to be taken on a regular basis, usually with two or three doses per day. It’s also possible that Avandia may not start to take full effect for two or three months after starting to take the medication.
What Symptoms Does Avandia Treat?
The primary function of Avandia is to keep a patient’s type 2 diabetes under control and manage the disease as best as possible. Properly controlling diabetes can help to lower a patient’s risk of severe cardiac events like heart attack and stroke. When effective, Avandia will help to lower the chance of such medical events.
Avandia can also help control the symptoms of high blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia. Initial symptoms of hyperglycemia may include:
- Headache and trouble concentrating
- Frequent urination
- High levels of third
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
If hyperglycemia becomes a long-term problem it can have more serious and permanent symptoms, including:
- Kidney damage
- Nerve damage causing loss of sensation in the extremities
- Vision problems, including possible blindness
- Intestinal issues, including diarrhea and constipation
- Loss of limbs
Like any other drug, Avandia comes with potential side effects and risks, especially since it has such a controversial history. Even with the harsh restrictions from the FDA lifted, Avandia may still increase the risk of heart failure. Patients with a history of heart trouble or symptoms of potential heart failure should not take Avandia. Patients taking insulin should also avoid taking Avandia.
Among the minor side effects of Avandia that patients commonly experience include a headache and cough. Neither is particularly serious unless they become persistent. Other minor side effects of the drug that are common include:
- Ear congestion
- Sneezing and stuffy or runny nose
- joint and muscle pain
- Trouble sleeping
More serious side effects of Avandia are rare but possible. Signs of cardiac problems like trouble breathing or shortness of breath should prompt an immediate call to a medical professional. Avandia has also been known to cause fluid retention, leading to swelling in the ankle and legs, as well as sudden weight gain. Such symptoms can also indicate potential cardiac problems.
Rare but serious side effects of Avandia also include:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
It’s also possible for Avandia, which is designed to regular high blood sugar, may cause low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. By exercising too much, not eating enough, or taking Avandia with other medications, hypoglycemia is a possible side effect. Short-term symptoms of hypoglycemia may include:
- Increased heart beat
- Sudden sweating
- Tingling in the extremities
- Blurred vision
For more severe symptoms, it’s important to contact a medical professional as soon as possible. For patients who experience less severe side effects to Avandia, informing your physician is also important. Any side effects, especially those relating to blood sugar that’s too low, may require an adjustment in medication.