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Artery Build Up Not Slowed By Diabetes Drug

November 13, 2008

New findings support the claim that a controversial diabetes pill failed to significantly slow plaque buildup in heart arteries compared with an older drug.

Since May of last year, Avandia, once a blockbuster drug made by British-based GlaxoSmithKline PLC, has been under a dark cloud of doubt.

That’s because a medical journal report suggested it could raise the risk of heart attacks and heart-related deaths; the American Diabetes Association recently said patients should avoid using it altogether.

The new study tested Avandia against the drug known as glipizide, sold as Glucotrol by Pfizer Inc. and in generic form.

Study participants all had Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, and were at high risk for heart problems.

Doctors measured the thickness of plaque forming in a heart artery of each participant at both the start of the study and 18 months later.

They found those on Avandia had a slight reduction in buildup versus a little increase in those on glipizide. However, the difference was so small the results were a statistical draw.

Dr. Richard Nesto of Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston reported the results Wednesday at an American Heart Association conference.

“This is now the second study that was unable to show a beneficial effect,” said Dr. James Stein, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who had no role in the research.

“People really shouldn’t be using this to treat diabetes” because safer and more effective medicines are available, Stein said.

The results simply reveal “one more reason” to use Avandia with caution, according to Dr. Steven Nissen, the Cleveland Clinic cardiologist who did the 2007 analysis that suggested heart risks from the drug.

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