Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Drug Can Beat Up Your Drug

Abel Pharmboy's post about GSK intimidating doctors makes a recent development all the more darkly humorous.

Apparently, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes Actos, is going to go on an advertising spree informing patients how safe it is. More precisely, they're making a point to tell you that, according to at least one study, it doesn't increase the risk of heart attacks or strokes. You know, in all fairness, the black box warning doesn't say anything about heart attacks or strokes--strictly speaking, it's about congestive heart failure, in which the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to keep up with the needs of the body. And while it's true that Avandia and Actos have different effects on patient lipids, with Actos having a more favorable effect on HDL and triglycerides, the mechanism by which thiazolidinediones (the class of drugs to which Avandia and Actos both belong) increase the risk of heart failure is more likely related to the fact that they cause fluid retention and edema--which has nothing to do with lipid levels.

And even if Takeda did dig up a study saying that the overall risk of mortality for patients on Actos was better, turning it into a direct-to-consumer full-page newspaper ad is just crass. I expect this kind of mudslinging in politics, but in medicine?

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