Diabetes Drugs Mass Killers


Diabetes Drug Actos Has Same Heart Risks as Glaxo's Avandia, Study Finds

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s diabetes drug Actos causes as many heart problems as Avandia, the GlaxoSmithKline Plc pill that had a decline in sales after being linked to higher heart-disease rates, a study found.

Patients taking Avandia or Actos were 4 percent more likely to experience heart attacks, heart failure or die, according to the study published yesterday in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation.

Actos become the market leader after a 2007 study showed a 43 percent higher chance of heart attacks from Avandia, which generated $3.3 billion of sales before the findings. The latest study, the first to compare the drugs, suggests the risks are tied to that category of medicine, said Jenny Gunton, a diabetes researcher at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

“It just maybe increases the worry of using either of the drugs,” Gunton, who wasn’t involved in the study, said in a telephone interview from Sydney. A rate of 4 percent is “pretty high” given the short study period, she said.

U.S. regulators are reviewing whether Avandia, which is classed as the same type of treatment as Actos, should be taken off the market after a panel advised on July 14 that warnings about its risks should be added to prescription information.

The study involved more than 36,000 diabetes patients with an average age of 54 years and took place over 33 months, including 14 months of treatment on either medication.

Among the patients, 602 who took Avandia and 599 Actos users suffered either a heart attack, heart failure, or both, or died, the study showed. There were 217 deaths in each group.

Sedentary Lifestyles

“Actos offers an established safety profile regarding the risk of cardiovascular events in living with Type 2 diabetes,” Hisashi Tokinoya, a Takeda spokesman in Tokyo, said by telephone today. “Actos studies, conducted over the past 11 years in more than 20,000 patients, show no evidence that Actos was associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke or death.”

About 23.6 million Americans have diabetes, mostly the Type 2 variety linked to being overweight and sedentary, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The disease is characterized by the body’s inability to use insulin to break down blood sugar for energy. The illness increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney damage. Avandia and Actos work by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

Shares Fall

Glaxo fell 2.2 percent to 1,200 pence in London trading yesterday. Takeda lost 2.3 percent to 3,825 yen as of the 3 p.m. close in Tokyo trading today, the biggest drop since May 21.

Avandia generated sales of $1.1 billion last year for Glaxo, the U.K.’s biggest drugmaker. The London-based company said last month it would record a 1.57 billion-pound ($2.4 billion) charge in the second quarter to settle cases including claims that Avandia led to heart attacks, adding to 2.3 billion pounds it previously set aside for legal costs.

The Avandia study in 2007 was an analysis of data from 42 studies involving 15,560 patients who took the drug and 12,283 people who were given other medications or a placebo.

Patients on Avandia were 64 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular causes, though those findings may have resulted from chance, researchers in that study said.

Takeda had sales of 384.7 billion yen ($4.6 billion) from Actos in the year ended March 31, making it the Osaka, Japan- based company’s best-selling drug. The medicine halts progression of heart disease in diabetics, according to a 2008 study funded by the company.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kanoko Matsuyama in Tokyo at kmatsuyama2@bloomberg.net.



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