New Drug's Failure Raises Questions Over Other Diabetes Drugs

dangerous diabetes drugs

A leading Swiss pharmaceutical manufacturer, Roche, decided to halt its testing of a promising new diabetes drug, called aleglitazar. The drug was in late-stage testing, and Roche's decision to discontinue testing raises questions about the safety of all diabetes medications, especially the controversial drug Avandia.

Roche was testing aleglitazar not only for its ability to lower blood sugar, but also for its ability to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. If the drug would have been successful, it would have been a major advancement in cardiovascular treatments—diabetes drugs are typically only designed to lower blood sugar.

Roche decided to stop its testing after aleglitazar showed safety hazards without any sign of success. While testing, the drug was associated with an increase in bone fractures, kidney issues, and heart failure. The drug did not raise the risk of heart attack and stroke, but it did not show signs of lowering the risk either.

The drug's failure is likely to influence deliberations over the drug Avandia's safety. Recently, a Food and Drug Administration panel voted to reconsider restrictions on Avandia, which is currently heavily restricted only to those patients whose diabetes is so severe that taking the drug may be worth its added risk of heart failure. Avandia's critics will most likely cite aleglitazar as proof that diabetes drugs are a particularly dangerous class of drugs. However, those in support of loosening restrictions on Avandia will argue that if aleglitazar doesn't raise the risk of heart attack or stroke, it's possible that Avandia is safe in that regard as well.

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"Roche Stops Developing a New Drug for Diabetes." The New York Times. July 10, 2013.