Is Actos a safe alternative to Avandia? Not by a very long shot

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Type 2 diabetics, I hope you’re paying close attention to all this hogwash that’s being offered to you like it’s some fine vintage of champagne.

I’m talking about Actos–the supposedly “safe” alternative to Avandia.

When an FDA panel recently recommended that Avandia be kept on the market, some saw this as a win for Avandia. But 10 panel members who voted to keep Avandia available also voted that the drug should be sold only on a restricted basis.

In other words, whatever FDA officials finally decide, Avandia is deeply tainted.

This little detail wasn’t lost on executives at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Actos. They immediately made their move and launched an advertising blitz in high- profile publications like Time, Newsweek, Parade, and USA Today. And the new batch of ads delivered a comforting promise: “Actos has been shown to lower blood sugar without increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.”

That may be true. But the Actos “alternative” can still put your heart in grave danger.

Let’s get real

Avandia and Actos are in the same class of drugs. So anyone concerned about Avandia safety has got to be concerned about Actos as well.

For instance, USA Today reports that both drugs are proven to raise the risk of fractures, weight gain, fluid retention and heart failure.

That’s right: heart failure.

Also, during the two-day Avandia panel discussion, an FDA official confirmed that animal trials have shown that Actos may increase bladder cancer risk.

But these details about Actos dangers were lost in all the Avandia drama. So the average person ended up hearing a news story that boiled down to two points: 1) The FDA will probably keep Avandia on the market, and 2) Actos is safer.

But the panel took several votes that day. And I’ll bet you didn’t hear about this one…

When panelists were asked if Avandia was deadlier than Actos, seven said yes, and 14 said they couldn’t come to a conclusion. But 12 members said that Avandia was just as deadly as Actos.

So is that a plus for Avandia or a minus for Actos? I’m sure we’d get different responses from different panel members. But here’s what we know, without question: Both drugs are dangerous.

What’s a type 2 diabetic to do?

“It’s not like we have a scarcity of options for lowering blood sugar.”

That quote comes from Dr. Steven Nissen, the cardiologist who co-authored a 2007 study that brought the dangers of Avandia to national attention.

But I’m pretty sure Dr. Nissen isn’t talking about non-drug alternatives.

If you’ve looked over the evidence and you’re not one bit enthusiastic about a lifetime commitment to Actos or other diabetic drugs, we have two easy options for you.

First: You can read a special HSI report titled “Diabetes Defeated.” This free report contains plenty of information about botanical extracts that are proven to help control blood sugar levels.

Second: You can visit our HSI web site, click on the “Find a Cure” tab, then select the topic “Diabetes” to access dozens of articles about type 2 diabetes treatments from the HSI archives.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson

“Kick ‘Em When They’re Down: New Actos Ads” Ed Silverman, Pharmalot, 7/15/10,
“Doctors say it’s already over for diabetes drug Avandia” Rita Rubin, USA Today, 7/20/10,
“FDA Panel Votes to Restrict Avandia” Gardiner Harris, New York Times, 7/14/10,

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