Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Vexing Success Of Avandia

Some 18 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes, and 41 million more are at high risk of developing the disease. A newly published study finds that the "at risk" group can cut the odds of developing diabetes by 60% if they take Avandia, a pill used to treat the disease. The results create a conundrum for doctors, however: Diet and exercise can lower the risk by the same amount, without the potential side effects of a daily pill. "But lifestyle changes have limited usefulness because so few people are willing to make them," says Dr. Jill Crandall, head of the diabetes prevention program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Avandia is made by GlaxoSmithKline, which also sponsored the research. For three years the study followed 5,269 patients in 21 countries with impaired glucose tolerance, half of whom were given Avandia.

Reporting in The Lancet, the researchers projected that 144 cases of diabetes could be prevented for every 1,000 pre-diabetics treated with the medicine. The patients on Avandia did have a slightly higher rate of congestive heart failure, which specialists said could limit its effectiveness. At about $170 a month, the drug could also be costlier than lifestyle changes. But as Crandall notes, insurance companies are more likely to pay for the drug than to cover the costs of a dietician or fitness trainer.

Copyright The McGraw-Hill Companies, Copyright 2006

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