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Understand the 'risks' of Avandia before quitting
Q: My husband takes Avandia for his Type 2 diabetes. I'm beside myself with worry after hearing that this drug increases the risk of heart attacks. Should he stop taking it?
A: The findings on Avandia (rosiglitazone) are cause for concern but not alarm. The FDA has not advised doctors to stop prescribing Avandia, and patients should not stop taking it without consulting with their doctors.
The latest study was a meta-analysis of 42 prior studies. Researchers reported a 43 percent increased risk of heart attack associated with Avandia compared to placebo (fake pill). Readers might find it helpful to know the difference between the two types of risks reported in clinical studies.The 43 percent increased risk of heart attack associated with Avandia is relative risk, which can make risk seem deceptively high. Looking at absolute risk adds perspective. Aclinical trial consisted of 1,000 participants, with 500 taking a drug pill and the other 500 taking a fake pill (placebo). Myocardial infarction (heart attack) occurred in 6 of those on the drug and in 4 of those on placebo. This means the drug group had an absolute risk of 1.2 percent (6 divided by 500) and the placebo group had an absolute risk of 0.8 percent (4 divided by 500). The difference between the two (0.4 percent or less than half of 1 percent) is the actual risk of heart attack.
Richard Harkness is a consultant pharmacist, natural medicines specialist and author of eight books.