Takeda Pharmaceuticals currently faces hundreds of lawsuits for detrimental side effects of its popular diabetes drug Actos, which has been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer. In the midst of this whirlwind, a new 10-year study has linked Actos, and its rival Avandia, to an increased risk of diabetic macular edema.
Macular edema occurs when the macula, a small piece of tissue at the center of the retina, begins to swell with fluid. The macula is responsible for focusing straight ahead, while the retina as a whole interprets light hitting the eye and sends the signals to the brain. When fluid leaks into the macula, the swelling blurs vision. While people with macular edema often retain peripheral vision, the disease can cause damage to the retina, and eventual vision loss.
About twenty percent of diabetes patients develop diabetic macular edema. However, this study, published in June in the Archives of Internal Medicine, shows a 2- to 3-times greater risk of developing macular edema. In the study of 103,000 people, 1.3 percent of participants taking either Actos or Avandia developed diabetic macular edema, compared with 0.2 percent not on either medication.
Actos has been linked in several studies to an increased risk of bladder cancer, and Avandia came under fire a few years before for increasing the risk of heart disease.
Patients with Type 2 diabetes should get regular eye exams, whether they are taking Actos or Avandia, or are following another course of treatment.
Iskandar Idris is the author of the study, and a consultant in diabetes and endocrinology at Sherwood Forest Hospitals Foundation Trust in England. He suggested that not only should patients have their eyes checked regularly, but the study found that patients who took ACE inhibitors – which are prescribed for hypertension – seemed protected from macula swelling. He also pointed out that keeping glucose in check and lowering blood pressure would also protect the eyes from risk.
Dr. Sonal Singh, co-author of a journal entry accompanying the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, said that “the major limitation of this study is the inability to completely separate out whether the effect of these drugs on macular edema is due to the drug or the underlying disease — diabetes.” However, patients with diabetes should still have their vision checked regularly, as the disease increases the risk of vision complications.
If you or a loved one have taken Actos or Avandia, and are currently suffering vision impairment, please contact the experienced lawyers at Strom Law, LLC. We offer free consultations to advise you on your rights, and help get you on the path to recovery.