If you’re taking Avandia for your diabetes, you’re the belle of the Big Pharma ball right now.
You might even say everyone wants a piece of you–but don’t feel too flattered, because all they really want is a piece of your bank account (or at least the numbers on your health insurance card).
As you know by now, the diabetes drug was banned in Europe. Here in the United States, sales have been severely restricted–but those new rules don’t apply to the 600,000 patients already taking the drug.
They can keep taking it… if they want. But who’d want to at this point?
And that brings us to the competition for your attention, affection and copays as the drug companies try to convince you that their bad meds are at least better than Avandia.
First up: Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ diabetes drug Actos, the unofficial winner in all the studies that exposed Avandia’s heart and stroke risk.
Avandia’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline, has even handed out some accidental free publicity for Actos–claiming that Avandia doesn’t actually increase heart risk… Actos is just so much better for the heart that it makes Avandia look worse when the two are compared.
So, naturally, Takeda has launched an all-out marketing blitz, with advertisements in 121 papers, a 1-800 number and an offer of a free 30-day trial.
But hold on a minute–don’t touch that dial!
Actos has been linked it to its own heart risk–and other studies have linked it to an increase in the risk of bladder cancer.
Don’t worry–there are some other suitors in this ballroom. In fact, here are some names to watch out for, because all of them may soon ask for your hand (or at least your glucose meter results): Januvia, Byetta and Victoza.
While a recent survey of doctors found that all three of these meds could win big now that Avandia is out of the picture, market analysts think one in particular–Merck’s Januvia–will turn into the diabetes drug of choice.
In fact, BMO Capital Markets’ analyst Robert Hazlett predicts that Januvia’s worldwide sales will eventually reach $6 billion a year–putting it into the competition for the number two spot among all drugs in terms of sales.
Just one little problem: Januvia works by shutting off a protein that your body needs to fight cancer. Already, early studies have found that patients who take the med have a "slight" increase in cancer rates.
I’ll keep you posted on that one.
And while there’s no data on it yet, diabetics on the Internet have been complaining that the drug seems to slow the wound-healing process–not exactly an encouraging development for diabetics, who already have problems fighting wounds.
The real answer is that there isn’t a great answer out there–not among the drugs, anyway.
Work with your doctor on the lifestyle changes you need to take control of your condition instead.
The alternatives can be much worse than diabetes.
Edward Martin is a health journalist who writes about today's most pressing health issues. He chronicles the most cutting-edge alternative methods for beating everything from diabetes to cancer and reports on the latest FDA foul-ups and Big Pharma conspiracies.