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Money and medicine: The story of Avandia

Prescription drug Avandia was once the top-selling diabetes drug in the world — and it still helps more than half a million Americans balance their blood sugar levels. But a Food and Drug Administration panel dealt the drug a blow this week that may have some diabetes sufferers questioning whether they want to use it.

The debate focused on whether Avandia, which is acknowledged to be one of the most effective drugs for treating Type 2 diabetes, comes with dangerous side effects: An increase in a patient’s chance of suffering a stroke or heart attack, and dying from it.

Avandia TimelineIn the end, while a majority of the 33-member panel did agree that Avandia, compared to other diabetes drugs, does increase risk for cardiovascular problems, they didn’t agree that it increases a user’s risk of death. The FDA will decide if and how it will act on the panel’s recommendation soon. Whatever it decides, the drug’s reputation has already been tarnished.

Need to Know’s Jon Meacham sat down with Dr. Jerome Kassirer, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, to discuss the state of the FDA today in light of the Avandia ruling. Kassirer talked about the conditions that make it possible for drugs such as Fen-phen, Vioxx and now Avandia, the latest drug that may be pulled from the market, to reach consumers.

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