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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Dangerous Medications

Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Dangerous Medications


When you are first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes doctors will recommend you begin exercising and eating healthier foods. That’s the first prescription the medical community turns to before medication.


Why does being overweight contribute to type 2 diabetes? More than 85 percent of people who have type 2 are obese. There is definitely a connection, but scientists are still uncertain as to what it is. One theory is that having excess weight makes your cells more resistant to insulin. If cells don't absorb insulin, blood sugar levels will rise, causing diabetes.


Another study puts forward the theory that fat buildup might essentially be blocking the pancreas from putting out insulin. Fat could also be keeping the liver from absorbing insulin. That study found that as people lose weight, the liver's ability to filter sugar improves and the pancreas produces more insulin.


People with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin. They are mostly limited to insulin in the treatment of their condition. People with type 2 diabetes are in a unique position. They developed the disease later in life, possibly because of obesity. They still produce some insulin, and medication can help to manage their disease.


People with type 2 diabetes also make up the majority of diabetes cases — an estimated 95 percent. This makes people with type 2 diabetes a very attractive target for pharmaceutical companies that want to sell diabetes drugs.


One of the best-selling medications for type 2 diabetes is Actos, which works by making cells more sensitive to insulin. When cells are more insulin-sensitive, they filter more sugar from the blood. That lowers blood sugar levels.


Actos is manufactured by Takeda Pharmaceuticals. The drug has made the company more than $16 billion in the United States alone since 2007. All of this money may have helped to hide dangerous Actos side effects.

Actos has carried a black-box warning since 2007. The Food and Drug Administration only uses this warning on drugs that can cause serious injury or death. Actos got its warning for increasing the risk of congestive heart failure by 30 percent.


The drug also drastically increases the risk of Actos bladder cancer. A U.S. study says Actos increases the risk by 40 percent when the pill is taken for more than 12 months. Another study, published in the British Medical Journal, says Actos can actually increase bladder cancer risk by 83 percent.


Other type 2 diabetes drugs like metformin and sulfonylureas can have side effects on the kidneys, liver and heart.


Patients and doctors should discuss each medication option and then decide together which one is best.



William Richards researches and writes about prescription drugs and medical devices for Drugwatch.com.