Actos, Avandia Linked to Higher Incidence of Eye Disorder

<"">Actos and <"">Avandia increase the risk that users will develop diabetic macular edema, a serious eye disorder that can lead to blindness. According to a study presented at the American Diabetes Association’s annual meeting in San Diego, people taking either of the diabetes medications are 3 to 6 more times likely to develop the eye disease.

Diabetic macular edema is the most common cause of vision loss in diabetics. Diabetes causes damage to retinal capillaries through loss of their supporting cells–pericytes. Once the retinal capillaries are damaged, microaneuryms form. Then the vessels leak and the retina swells. The best way to prevent the disorder is to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

According to a report from Bloomberg News, this latest study involved 100,000 people. The authors of the study have advised that people already at risk for diabetic macular edema – those who have poor control of their blood sugar, or those who already have a history of the disorder – should avoid taking Actos or Avandia.

Actos and Avandia belong to a class of diabetes drugs called thiazolidinediones that lower blood sugar by decreasing insulin resistance. Both medications have been associated with serious and sometimes deadly side effects. Last year, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) placed severe restrictions on the sale of Avandia after it was shown to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Avandia’s label has included a black box warning regarding heart attacks since 2007.

Earlier this month, the FDA issued a Drug Safety Communication warning that people taking Actos for more than a year may face an increased risk of bladder cancer. The agency said the information on the possible association between Actos and bladder cancer would be added to the “Warnings and Precautions” section of the drug’s label.

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