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A new report says patients began discussing the risks of GlaxoSmithKline diabetes drug Avandia in online forums and blogs well before a meta-analysis linked it to higher heart-attack risk. Neither physicians nor company officials acknowledged their worries, contributing to an alarming drop in patient sentiment and, according to authors, a lost opportunity to reach out and restore trust.
Patients first started questioning whether it was safe to take Avandia given their situation, especially those with congestive heart failure (CHF), in 2003 and 2004, but the drug was still seen as a good alternative for many with type 2 diabetes, notes the report. Negative comments began referencing Avandia risks in 2005 but were more likely to grow out of frustration with weight gain and edema—potential side effects of drugs in the thiazolidinedione (TZD) class.
The tone changed in 2006. Discussions went beyond swelling and weight gain to comparisons with other products shown to lower blood sugar without these risks, such as Eli Lilly/Amylin's Byetta and Merck's Januvia. Chatter about other side effects lit up message boards, as well. Analysis of comments shows patients connected edema to an increased risk of CHF, and some reported increased blood pressure. Anger and frustration grew, as physicians seemed disconnected from the concerns.