When the diabetes drug Avandia was pulled from the market due to its heart risk, docs rushed to switch their patients over to the supposedly safer rival drug Actos.
I say "supposedly" because I didn't buy it myself. There are just too many studies out there that show Actos to be every bit as bad as Avandia, if not worse.
Now, a new lawsuit shows what I feared -- that docs who switched their patients from one to the other may have been sending them out of the frying pan and into the fryer.
Dr. Helen Ge, a former safety consultant and medical reviewer for Takeda Pharmaceuticals -- maker of Actos -- alleges that the company routinely downgraded her assessments of congestive heart failure linked to the drug from "serious" to "non-serious."
As a result, she says hundreds of cases of congestive heart failure were incorrectly reported.
The semantics game didn't end there. Dr. Ge says her supervisors ordered her to change cases she had determined were related to the drug to "unrelated."
So we go from serious and related events… to non-serious and unrelated ones. And yes, that makes a huge difference in how the government treats that information.
That's assuming they even get the information at all. In addition to all that other monkey business, Dr. Ge says a company database lists 100 cases of bladder cancer linked to Actos -- but only 72 were reported to the FDS.
The company denies all this, of course. And Ge's lawsuit, if it succeeds, has the potential to make her very wealthy.
But this is more than just the case of a disgruntled employee, because the research shows that Actos isn't nearly as safe as you've been led to believe.
Back in 2010, a major study in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that roughly the same number of Avandia and Actos patients died of heart attack, heart failure, and death -- four percent in all.
In addition, several studies have found a link between Actos and bladder cancer -- especially in patients who take the highest doses for the longest periods.
Ultimately, a jury will decide if the company has been lying or telling the truth. But the jury was out a long time ago on a much bigger issue: Diabetes drugs are not safe -- and if you're on them, work with your own doctor to find your way off.