Diabetes drug Avandia to be banned

UAE health authorities have banned the import of a popular diabetes drug Avandia, and want it off the shelves within four weeks.

Health authorities have banned the import of a popular diabetes drug, and want it off the shelves within four weeks. The Ministry of Health released a statement yesterday discouraging medical professionals from prescribing Avandia, a drug used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, amid concerns that it significantly increases the risk of heart attack.

"We have decided to stop importing Avandia," said Amin al Amiri, the chief executive for medical practice and licensing at the ministry. "We have recommended to doctors to try to withhold the usage for patients and slowly reduce the dosages," he added. "If doctors find an existing patient has any sort of complication, they have to inform the ministry." The UAE has the second-highest rate of diabetes in the world, and Avandia is reported to be widely used here.

"We've had discussions and will abide by whatever the ministry has said," said Aly Ziwar, the medical director for the Gulf and Near East region of GlaxoSmithKline, the drug's manufacturer. "From our point of view, this is a decision for the patients' well-being and we'll follow up." The statement was released to all public and private hospitals and pharmacies, informing them that the drug would be off the market within four weeks.

The move follows restrictions of the drug in Europe and the US. The European Medicines Agency recommended last week that Avandia be suspended. The medicine will no longer be available in Europe within the next few months. In a similar move, the US Food and Drug Administration will require GlaxoSmithKline to restrict access to people who do not respond to other medication in the same class. According to Bachar Afandi, an endocrinologist at Tawam Hospital in Al Ain, some doctors have already been reducing use of the drug.

"For the last few months we've not started patients on Avandia, we've made sure patients who are on it are informed about it and have been cutting the dosages," he said.