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The FDA panel reviewing cardiac safety concerns about diabetes drug Avandia has recommended by an overwhelming 22 to 1 vote that the popular drug should remain on the market. Some panel members recommended that its warning label be strengthened. The recommendations of advisory panels such as this are highly influential but not binding on the FDA.

News of the recommendation resulted in a rally for the stock of GlaxoSmithKline, sold in the United States through American Depository Receipts. But it remains to be seen whether doctors will continue prescribing Avandia at the high levels prevailing before the New England Journal of Medicine published a story reporting about the increased risk of heart attacks for diabetes patients taking the drug.

Not being a patient with diabetes myself, I wonder how I would approach the decision whether to take the drug. If it has a higher relative cardiac risk than other medications that treat diabetes, a common complication for diabetics, how should I gauge that risk against the benefits of using the drug? I would certainly be asking questions about alternative effective treatments that don’t carry the same risk of heart attack.

For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Drugs, Medical Devices, and Implants.

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