The Internet is all abuzz with the recent news that people taking the drug Avandia (rosiglitazone) have significantly higher rates of cardiovascular events (heart attacks and fatal heart attacks) than people who don't take the drug.
Physicians' offices are being bombarded with calls from patients taking the drug, asking if they should stop. This is not surprising, as all the articles tell patients to "talk to your health care provider" to see if they should stop taking the drug.
It is important for anyone taking, or thinking about taking, Avandia to know about the increased risks from taking this drug. Side effects are one of many factors you should consider when deciding whether or not to take any drug, including aspirin. The other factors include the effectiveness of the drug compared with other diabetes drugs; the other side effects of the drug, both short-term and long-term, mild or more serious; possible interactions with other drugs or over-the-counter supplements you may be taking; the cost of the drug and whether or not your insurance plan will help to pay for it; and whether any risks of taking the drug are greater than the risks of having higher blood glucose levels.
All drugs have side effects. What you need to do before you take a new drug is to try to determine, with the help of your doctor, whether it's worth risking the side effects of a new drug in an attempt to reduce the risks of the disease itself. Sometimes the only way to decide is to take the drug for a while and see how effective it is for you, and whether you get any short-term side effects.
The scary part for anyone with a chronic disease are the long-term side effects, which sometimes don't show up until years after people start taking a drug. It was only recently that they found that long-term use of the glitazone drugs, of whichAvandia is one, increases the rate of bone fractures in elderly women. Cancer drugs often cause hair loss in the short term. It was only after decades that they discovered that cancer drugs used to cure Hodgkins disease in teenagers caused heart disease in middle age. Not good. But being alive with heart disease is probably preferable to being dead without it.
What we need to remember is that many life choices also have side effects, both short and long term. Examples are dietary choices, exercise or lack thereof, emotional stress, drinking alcohol, driving cars, riding snowmobiles, driving tractors, and crossing the street.
An analysis like the Avandia analysis would undoubtedly show that people who drive automobiles have greater accident rates than people who stay off the roads. But does everyone give up driving? Nope.
A similar analysis would undoubtedly show that people who drink and drive have greater accident rates than people who don't drink and drive. But do people stop drinking and driving? Nope.
In fact, just drinking to excess and staying home is dangerous. So is living off fast food and eating a vegetable only once a year. People know this. But do they change their eating habits? For the most part, nope.