« Previous | Main | Next »

Join in the debate on A Risk Worth Taking?

A drug for type two diabetes is still being prescribed in the UK despite being recommended for withdrawal two months ago, Panorama has found.

Avandia has been linked to a raised risk of heart attacks and heart failure and is under a Europe-wide review.

An expert panel of the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said its use should be suspended but it is still available on the NHS.

Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline says it is safe if properly monitored.

In A Risk Worth Taking? Shelley Jofre investigates the rise and fall of Avandia and asks whether the medicines' regulator is putting the interests of the drugs industry before patients.

We welcome your comments on this week's Panorama. Please do join in the debate.


  • Comment number 1.

    We welcome your input via our team blog. Please join the debate and tell us your thoughts on A Risk Worth Taking?

  • Comment number 2.

    I have been taking Avandia since i was unable to take Metformin, although i put weight on and had swollen ankles over the last few years i was told it could not possibly be any of the pills i am taking. A few weeks ago i was taken into hospital were i was diagnosed as haveing unstable Angina. The Doc in hospital said my pills needed to be reviewed so i went off to see my GP after i was sent home, nothing was changed. This has me more worried now as i think my problems have been down to this pill.

  • Comment number 3.

    A friend's husband took this drug approximately five to six years ago, three days later he was rushed to hospital suffering a heart attack. His wife questioned the doctors at the hospital and her own doctor about this drug to see if it could have been the cause of the heart attack but they refused to comment and she was dismissed as a 'worrying wife'! I would be interested to know if anyone in the UK is taking legal action or how she could proceed regarding this?

  • Comment number 4.

    Ihave been taking Avandia since i have been diagnosed diabetic, I have suffererd from water retention,weight gain and had a heart attack 3 years ago. since that time my Gp has continued to prescribe Avandia.
    Today on hearing the news i rang the surgery spoke to the practice manager who knew nothing about the news report but said she would get a doctor to phone me.
    My Gp called me and immediatly took me off Avandia replaced with another
    tablet and told me i would need a blood test in six weeks

  • Comment number 5.

    My friend has just advised me that her husband is still taking Avandia and she is going to contact her doctors tomorrow morning. He was only 42 at the time of the heart attack.

  • Comment number 6.

    I was prescribed Rosiglitazone in 2007 as my blood sugars were getting out of control, it worked brilliantly and they came down. However, I started developing other problems over the following months so went to see my doctor. When I said I had come to see him about several problems he said he could only deal with one at a time and that I should make further appointments. Rather dissapointed (to put it mildly) I researched my problems on the internet. Chest pains, breathlessnes, increased cholesterol, ravenous appetite, weight gain, burning and tingling on soles of feet, etc. all pointed to Rosiglitazone (Avandia). I printed off the warning given by the US FDA and showed it to my Doc. He was apologetic to say the least as I had done his job for him. This warning showed that people in the US were having heart attacks caused by this drug. All the doctors in the practice had a meeting and decided to no longer prescribe it to new cases. I had an M.I. in 2001 with stents inserted and developed diabeter after that, I am now awaiting a triple heart by-pass graft, did the Rosiglitazone make my heart worse, I wonder? Incidentaly, I also react to statins with severe cramps and muscle problems, but that's a topic for another program. I have had more discomfort from drugs than from my illnesses. Drug companies are there purely to make money, they are not altruistic, that money comes before people and they seem to take risks, remember Thalidimide. Could I sue them for my suffering at their hands?

  • Comment number 7.

    3 yrs ago i was prescribed avandia within 6 wks i was experiencing chest pains and was diagnosed with angina but was kept on avandia only by the good grace of my husband watching an announcment on the news connecting avandia with heart attacks that i immediatly went to my g.p and told them i no longer wanted to be on this drug and stopped it but the damage was already done and i developed tachicardia and in july 2010 had an ablation to try and put this right all because of 1 tablet i have type 2 diabetes and it was under control but i have had all these years of life restrictions has any legal actions been taken for people like me?

  • Comment number 8.

    I was diagnosed as Type II diabetic in 2001 and was put onto Rosiglitazone. In January 2002 I had a three way C.A.B.G., but was kept on the drug not knowing then of its possible effect on my heart. My cholesterol levels were slowly being raised, but the GP and his nursing team did not suspect the Avandia drug. In 2007 when questions about Avandia were publicly raised I went to see my GP to discuss the implications for me, but he reassured me that all was well! We moved north in 2009 and in June of that year I had a 'silent' heart attack and, in hospital, was immediately taken off Avandia and put onto insulin. No one would say that the Avandia drug was the probable cause, but I am pretty certain it made a big contribution to the attack.

  • Comment number 9.

    Every medicine dispensed in the UK comes with a PIL (patient information leaflet). Rosiglitazone has side effects that include cardiac ischaema (MI or heart attack), weight gain, oedaema and heart failure just to name a few of the more common ones. These, along with the already increased cardio vascular risks for those with type 2 diabetes have been known for some time, (my information comes from the current BNF, British National Formulary No.59). The doctors have to weigh these risks against the risk of not giving medicines such as Rosiglitazone, (e.g. worsening effects of diabetes which can lead to kidney failure).
    This means that Doctors have probably been aware of the risks, but have acted in good faith with current guidelines and with the best interests of their patients.
    However, type 2 diabetes requires careful managent by BOTH the patient and their GP, this means following advice on exercise, diet and glucose control. The patient has to take control of their health, if they do not read or understand the information given with THEIR medicine, then they need to ask.
    I belive that the report did not make this clear and was biased.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have 2 comments. I was prescribed a drug called avandamet, which my doctor told me also had problems, is this true?
    he moved me onto a drug called pioglitazone which he said didn't have the same problems associated with it. I still take this one now and my diabetes is OK

  • Comment number 11.

    I am surprised and disappointed that the BBC has produced such a biased and over-dramatic programme; it has served no purpose other than to fuel the public’s fear and suspicion of the pharmaceutical industry and their belief that all of their health problems should be the responsibility of health professionals.
    The data concerning Avandia does indeed require further investigation and the way in which it had been dealt with by GSK is less than acceptable. But, having said this, drugs are not “magic bullets” and inherently carry a certain amount of risk to the patient. All medical practitioners will have to carefully weigh up the benefits and the risks to patients and in the case of Avandia, sometimes the risks of heart disease outweigh the risk of untreated Diabetes.
    The BBC made ample use of background images featuring disgustingly obese bodies; why then was the message not communicated that diabetes sufferers often bring the condition on themselves through obesity and lack of exercise and that the responsibility is on them, not the doctors and pharmaceutical industry, to maintain good health??
    The sad fact is that the public think that the pharmaceutical industry and doctors are responsible for their health, not themselves, and this is plainly evident in this programme; obese individuals are ready to blame anyone and anything for their condition and are unwilling or too ignorant to face up to the fact that joining Weight Watchers and doing a little exercise would do wonders for their health, better than any drug and without any of the side effects. I am bitterly disappointed that the BBC failed to point this out in order to create a more balanced and unbiased programme.

  • Comment number 12.

    In reply to Saxypete and Jax, I would like to say that i am not obese and never have been, I have never smoked, never abused drugs, hardly drink at all and regularly excercise eating a healthy diet. I have suffered with asthma all my life and have developed arthritis including 4 vertibrae fused together. I suffered an M.I in 2001 and later started to develop diabetes. I do not feel that in my case that any of my illnesses are at all self inflicted unlike many others as you state. I feel that I am managing my illnesses as best I can through diet and exercise and taking drugs as prescribed. All these drugs do indeed have information leaflets with them, but in my case with having several illnesses I find that the instuctions conflict with each other. You shouldn't take this drug if taking that one or have this other illness etc. Each drug states what possible side effects there may be, but they list everything that you could possibly suffer as to be farcical. You can't tell which drug causes what unless you stop taking them in turn as a process of ellimination. I have repeatedly expressed my concern to doctors only to be told that drug companies state everything they can think of to make sure they are completely covered legally in this litigious society and not to take much notice. I have also said I was worried about the drugs fighting each other or cancelling each other out only to be told the doctor knows best. I am eternally gratefull that these drugs have been developed as I would not be alive today, but the concerns that the program pointed out are very real. Of course the program was biased, that was the whole point of it, to show that drug companies manipulate test results in order to get new drugs on the market and boost their profits. I agree wholeheartedly that you should manage your own health and that a lot of illnesses are really self inflicted, but not many people know how. That's why they see a doctor and take the drugs he prescribes. We therefore need programmes like this to keep us informed. Like I said before, drug companies are there to make money like any other manufacturer, but this need for profit can colour their judgement. If you are diabetic, your risk of heart desease is increased, so a drug that works to lower your blood glucose levels is no good if it can cause heart attacks.

  • Comment number 13.

    I too have been taking Avandia for 2 years untill 3 months ago when a trip into hospital with heart failure found that the tablets I was taking caused the water gain and water retention in the lungs that lead to the heart failure. This was actually diagnosed by the consultant who treated me in A & E. He took me off the tablets straight away and wrote a letter to my GP explaining why. Prior to me going into hospital I went to my GP on 3 occassions complaining of water retention in my legs, on these 3 occassions I was prescribed different water tablets to treat this. I know this will be documented in my doctors surgery. This program I thought was put together very well it highlighted to me the fact that doctors are all to happy to just prescribe a drug without really examining a patient and there symptoms. It was only untill I was admitted to hospital that I was taken off the tablets. 'Jax' I feel as though it is unfair to say that the public should not rely on pharmaceutical industry and doctors for their health problems. The fact is that since coming out of hospital and the drug change I have now lost weight and am leading a healthier life, this is no thanks to my GP or the tablets I was on. This is fact. I will be taking my case further and writing a full report sending to my practice manager and to the health secretary in wales. Another point of incompetence I have come across is the fact that for the last 10 years I have not been weighed by the nhs as scales don't have the range, yet I bought scales from Germany at £200 delivered to my door in 2 days. This has encouraged me to lose weight. Again no help from nhs.

  • Comment number 14.

    After seeing the programme and subsequent comments - I am now in no doubt that Avandia was responsible for the death of my husband. He was precribed a veritable 'cocktail' of assorted drugs after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, but after taking Avandia for a short while experienced some strange side-effects - fainting fits etc. I had researched Avandia on-line as I do with any prescribed drugs and came across various sites warning of the dangers which he then asked his GP about - alas, I fear, the GP took this 'with a pinch of salt' implying that unqualified people should not carry out this type of research and continued to prescribe. He was eventually sent for an angiogram which was (apparently) clear but died suddenly of 'Coronary Artery disease' shortly after !!!

  • Comment number 15.

    Thank you for high-lighting at last, what I have know since Feb/Mar 2008.

    I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in December 2005. I was originally prescribed Metphormine, however this did not agree with me.In May 2006 I was prescribed Avandia ( Rosiglitizone ). I continued to take this drug unaware of the consequences.

    I started to experience numbness in my arm, and contacted the doctor to be told that it was nothing to worry about, as it was my left arm.

    In September 2006 I was at my local Gym in a spinning class, I experienced a tightening of the chest , severe pain and breathlessness. I went to hospital and had a further episode en route. I was immediately admitted and some hours later was told I had had a heart attack. As I have always played sport, and attended the gym 3-4 times a week, I thought they had got the wrong man( I was 45 )

    After 2 weeks of tests and having to have an angiogram, I was transferred to Leeds General infirmary, where I had 2 Stents fitted.
    These stents were to have made everything ok. However I was still experiencing Angina type pain and had a further Angiogram in November 2006. Apparently it showed everything was ok, although there was some furring of the arteries. I continued experiencing pain.

    In September 2007 I had a 2nd heart attack and had further stent fitted.however I was still experiencing Angina type pain.
    In February 2008 I became unwell. lost lots of weight, became increasingly tired and very thirsty. I did not usually test my bloods regularly. My partner, also a diabetic ( type 1 ) tested my blood and it went off the scale and further tests were high 20`s.He went onto the internet to look up Rosiglitizone and what he found sent shockwaves through us.In the US there was up roar and Diabetics taking this drug were having big problems .The drug Avandia was actually causing problems. Exactly the same problems that I had exprienced.

    I went to the doctor who quickly took me off the drug,stating that they had only recently being advised to review patients on this drug.
    When I went to the Chemist, he had a quiet word , stating ` thank god I had being taken off that drug` as he had known since May 2007 of all the problems it was causing in the US . He said my doctor would also have had received the same information, however I was never informed.

    I sought legal help, and was taking a clinical negligence claim against my GP. I paid £2000 for various reports . A doctors report that the solicitors received said that as I already had Diabetes it would be hard to prove. But I argue that this drug actually causes heart problems,and had I being made aware of the risks from the outset then I would have being in a position to make an informed choice. Had I also being taken off this drug in May 2007 , would I have had a heart attack?

    What the program lacked was, what help was there for the patients who have being affected by this drug in the UK In the US they had group litigation cases. My question is, do the program makers know of any UK group litigation solicitors, as I have being told that is the only route for me to take.

    I am left with Angina , low self esteem no job and mental health issues, all as a result of having 2 heart attacks. Which I know 100% was caused by Avandia.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.