Diabetes Drugs Avandia, Actos Both Risky, Wellpoint Says

By: Jennifer Hong
Staff Writer
Published: Aug 29, 2021

Diabetes drugs Avandia, Actos both risky, according to health insurance company Wellpoint.

Diabetes drugs Avandia, Actos both risky, Wellpoint says. Diabetes drug Avandia or Actos carry similar risks, according to WellPoint. Avandia and Actos carry risks that include cardiovascular problems and bone fractures.

Drugs Avandia and Actos are both risky, according to a study conducted by insurance company WellPoint. It's a controversy health study that involves cardiovascular risks for both drugs that treat diabetes. The drugs are members of the family known as thizolidinediones, which decrease the insulin resistance of body tissues and modify the production of cholesterol.

Avandia and Actos are considered among the most powerful drugs for treating Type 2 diabetes. However, they are now plagued by reports of side effects. A 2007 study of more than 200,000 Medicare patients suggested that Avandia, known generically as rosiglitazone, increased the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease, stroke and death by 30 to 40 percent.

Both drugs are risky, but the study also suggested that the increased risk was not observed with Actos, known generically as pioglitazone. The health study led the Food and Drug Administration to require a stronger warning label on Avandia to alert consumers to the risks. After more reports of increased risk with the drug, an FDA advisory panel last month recommended even stronger warning labels.

WellPoint Inc. released its own study that was led by Debra Wertz. The health insurance company recorded 28,938 clients who took either of the two drugs from 2001 to 2005. They obtained information about health outcomes from the company's own records and about deaths from the National Death Index, a database administered by the government's National Center for Health Statistics.

They reported in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes that, when they accounted for potential confounding effects, including age, gender and prior heart disease, about 4 percent of each group had a heart attack, heart failure or died. Specifically:

-- 96 patients on Avandia suffered a heart attack, compared with 121 on Actos;
-- 265 on Avandia suffered heart failure, compared with 243 on Actos;
-- 24 on Avandia suffered both heart attack and heart failure, compared with 18 on Actos;
-- and 217 on Avandia and 217 on Actos died.

"What distinguishes this latest study from other claims-based analyses is its analysis of death records, which include out-of-hospital deaths," Debra Wertz said in a statement. The study also followed patients for a longer period of time than earlier studies and the patients were younger, she added. Unlike the earlier studies, however, it did not include strokes in the data, which may account for part of the difference in outcomes.

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