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The widely prescribed diabetes drug Avandia is linked to a greater risk of heart attack and possibly death, a new scientific analysis revealed, and the U.S. government issued a safety alert Monday.

The Food and Drug Administration urged diabetics taking the pill to talk to their doctors, but stopped short of forcing a sharper warning label on the drug sold by GlaxoSmithKline PLC of London

More than 6 million people worldwide have taken the drug since it came on the market eight years ago. Pooled results of dozens of studies revealed a 43 percent higher risk of heart attack, according to the review published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Some data suggests “that there is a potentially significant increase in the risk,” but there also is risk if patients switch drugs or do not keep their blood-sugar under control, an FDA statement says.
FDA officials acknowledged that Glaxo submitted information in August indicating some increased risk from the drug but that other studies were contradictory. Several members of Congress expressed alarm and said they would hold hearings on the safety issues.

Avandia is used to treat Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, which is linked to obesity and afflicts 18 million Americans and 200 million people worldwide. This form of diabetes occurs when the body does not make enough insulin or cannot effectively use what it manages to produce.

Avandia helps sensitize the body to insulin and was considered a breakthrough medication for blood-sugar control

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