Patient blames drug for ill health

Staff WriterFebruary 23, 2010 

For many patients and doctors who battle diabetes, much has been lost in the protracted controversy over the drug Avandia.

Gary Register, a former insurance agent in Apex, was stricken with a heart attack 10 years ago at age 40. He said he has lost his health and he blames the Avandia he took for less than a year.

Now, Avandia's manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, faces allegations that it knew of heart risks years before studies became public. Register is disgusted.

"It should have been taken off the market before now," he said. "Or it should never have been on the market." He has joined a lawsuit.

The controversy has eroded many doctors' confidence in Avandia. Some simply quit prescribing the drug, accounting for a significant drop in sales for GSK.

Dr. John Buse, director of the Diabetes Care Center at UNC-Chapel Hill and past president of the American Diabetes Association, said he has long preferred a competing drug in the same class.

Buse drew national attention in 2007 when he testified before a congressional hearing that his research suggested patients on Avandia had more heart problems than patients on similar drugs.

GSK officials contend there is no evidence Avandia directly caused any heart problems.

"The question raised - is there a role for Avandia - is a legitimate question," Buse said, agreeing there is yet no proof of a direct cause. "But to me, the amount of time and effort that doctors and patients have spent agonizing over this, the amount of time and effort the press has been covering it, the time and effort the FDA has been [regulating] it, I do wonder if it's all worthwhile.

"Couldn't we do something better," Buse said, "that would have more impact on the lives of people with diabetes?"

sarah.avery@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4882

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