Diabetes Patients Face an Uncertain Future as Common Drug Blamed for Cancer
With a cloud hanging over the almost universally prescribed diabetes drug Actos, diabetics are left wondering what to do. The drug has been found guilty of dramatically increasing bladder cancer risk and two EU countries have already withdrawn it.
A diagnosis of diabetes is worrying, even frightening news for any patient, who has to come to terms not only with the restrictions the disease will place on their lifestyle but with its dangers to their health and life. Suddenly they are faced with having to care for their health in a way that perhaps they never have before. Many of their favorite foods are banned or restricted, and they are obliged to test their blood sugar levels regularly as well as undergo other regular health checks for complications.
The patient will almost certainly be advised to lose weight by watching their diet and increasing their physical activity. They are made aware of the serious complications diabetes may incur, most of them life threatening, and that their own life expectancy has been reduced because of the disease.
The first target they encounter is to control their blood sugar levels, keeping them as low and steady as they can with diet, exercise, and medication. For many patients with type 2 diabetes the latter has meant taking Actos, which works by preventing the manufacture of extra sugar by the liver and enhancing insulin sensitivity in the tissues. In type 2 diabetes the patient may still be producing the hormone insulin, which causes sugar to be absorbed from the blood by the tissues, but may have developed a resistance to its effects. The drug can be used in combination with other diabetic medications or with insulin.
Actos was known to have some side effects; including worsening or increasing the danger of heart failure in diabetics, but doctors simply prescribed a different medication for patients with heart failure symptoms. Now the drug has been firmly linked with a 40% increase in bladder cancer risk, and France and Germany have withdrawn it from sale. The risk is for patients who have taken Actos for 12 months, and increases the longer the patient takes the drug.
The US Food and Drug Administration have not withdrawn the drug here; however they have issued advice to patients on Actos, that they should consult their doctor immediately if they have any symptoms. These include red colored or bloody urine, urgency or pain when urinating and pain in the lower back or abdomen.
With doctors so busy with large workloads, it is not always possible for them to alert patients to news such as this, and you must be proactive in seeking a solution. Your health is precious, and if you are a diabetic, you need to take even more care of it. The sensible approach is to talk it over with your doctor as soon as you can, expressing your concerns, and asking about alternative medication. He will understand your worries, and should be able to advise you on your choices. If you wish, he can then take you off Actos and prescribe another more suitable drug.
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