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Diabetes pill's sales health in question
Heading into this weekend's American Diabetes Association meeting in Chicago, industry analysts are predicting a continued decline of the diabetes pill Avandia.
Avandia, sold by British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline PLC, has been losing market share in the wake of study results announced last month indicating the drug was associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, according to several industry studies.
But the drug also faces a flurry of competitors in a worldwide market for diabetes drugs that could exceed $30 billion in 2011, according to a report earlier this week from Cowen & Co.
Diabetes is a disease that affects the amount of insulin and sugar in a person's body. The most common form of diabetes is Type 2, in which the body does not produce enough insulin or effectively use insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes produce virtually no insulin of their own.
The meeting should be "heavy on buzz about Avandia and the newer Type 2 diabetes treatment alternatives," said Cowen analysts.
One primary beneficiary of Avandia's troubles of late has been Actos, a drug in the same class, that is sold by Deerfield-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America Inc., the U.S. unit of Japan's largest drugmaker, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. of Osaka.
After the New England Journal of Medicine published a study linking Avandia and increased risk of heart problems, doctors began shifting some prescriptions from GlaxoSmithKline's drug to Actos by almost a 2-1 ratio, according to some reports.
Other pills, too, are benefiting, such as Merck & Co.'s Januvia and Novartis AG's Galvus. Patients also have options in the injected drug Byetta, sold by Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Pfizer Inc.'s inhaled insulin, Exubera, among other treatments.
Analysts warn, however, that Actos and other diabetes drugs will be the subject of a coming Food and Drug Administration advisory panel hearing when more information about the risks of Avandia and perhaps other medicines may become available.
GlaxoSmithKline has stood by assertions of the safety of Avandia, the world's top-selling diabetes pill, with $3 billion in worldwide sales last year.
The drug's supporters have also said it's unclear whether patients taking Avandia, who often suffer from obesity and other health problems, had heart attacks because of such problems.
"The next event of focus will be the FDA advisory committee to be held on July 30," said Morgan Stanley analyst Mayo Mita in a recent report. "If Takeda can provide results of a [pooled analysis of data] by then, cardiovascular risk pertaining to Actos should clear up."
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