Avandia May Be Useful to Prevent Chronic Nerve Damage Pain: Study

Japanese researchers say that GlaxoSmithKline’s much maligned diabetes drug Avandia could provide potential benefit as a pain medication. 

In a new study published online this week in Anesthesia and Analgesia, researchers from the Juntendo University School of Medicine found that Avandia appears to prevent chronic pain from nerve damage. The findings come just months after the side effects of Avandia on the heart led to its recall in a number of countries, and severe restrictions on it’s use in the United States.

The researchers conducted experiments on mice and found that a three-day regimen of rosiglitazone, the active ingredient in Avandia, prevented nerve injury from turning into chronic pain. According to the findings, both taking rosiglitazone orally and administering it through local injections were effective.

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Avandia was first introduced in 1998 to treat type 2 diabetes by helping control blood sugar levels. The drug was used by millions of diabetics throughout the world before sales began to plummet in mid-2007, after a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted the potential Avandia heart risks.

A “black box” warning was added to Avandia in the United States in November 2007, but many critics continued to argue that the warning was not strong enough and called for an Avandia recall to be issued because the risks appeared to greatly outweigh any benefit provided by the medication.

Despite a growing body of evidence pointing to increased risk of heart attacks and death on Avandia, the FDA decided in September 2010 not to recall Avandia in the United States. Instead, the FDA allowed the medication to remain on the market with severe restrictions on who can use the product.

In May, the FDA put those restrictions on Avandia in place, announcing that the medication will only be available from select pharmacies by mail order and special educational programs will be required before the drug can be prescribed.

According to the new study, researchers indicate that rosiglitazone would not have to be taken regularly to prevent nerve injury pain flare-ups, which could reduce the risk of Avandia heart problems.

In recent years, GlaxoSmithKline has faced thousands of Avandia lawsuits that were filed throughout the United States by individuals who allege that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risks associated with Avandia. A number of Avandia settlements have reportedly been reached by GlaxoSmithKline in an effort to resolve the litigation, but thousands of cases are still pending in courts throughout the country.

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