I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2001 and was prescribed Avandia," says Gene Cearley. "And I'm still taking it-neither my doctor nor my cardiologist told me otherwise." Since taking Avandia, Cearley was also a heart attack waiting to happen-and he's only 47.
"Avandia helped control my blood sugar and that's why I am still taking it," says Cearley. "But on August 23, 2001 I had a quadruple by-pass. Leading up to that, I started having a lot of heart-related issues. It started with pain in my chest and a lot of pressure; then pain radiated down both arms and up through my neck-all part of this angina problem.
"At first my doctor said it was because of my diabetic condition but eventually I asked him if it could be heart-related. I was sent for a stress test and ended up being referred to a cardiologist. He did a heart catheterization and found four blockages: one was 100% blocked, another 90%, then 75 % and 50%. He said I could have a major heart attack at any moment. I asked what he meant by a 'major' heart attack. 'A man of your age would normally not survive,' he said. I was only 41 at that time. Apparently when men do have heart attacks at this age, we are usually under a lot of stress. My friend died from heart failure at 32. If young men do survive they are usually incapacitated, for the rest of their lives.
That was just the beginning of my problems. I began to have more angina issues in 2002 so they did another heart catheterization and found four more blockages: this time they wanted to control it with meds so now I am on a few kinds of blood pressure drugs.
Up until this past month, I had no idea that Avandia had anything to do with my heart problem. A friend saw something on TV about Avandia and its link to heart attacks. I watched the news but never saw it. 'Dad, you've got the Internet, get on there,' my daughter said. Then I saw how dangerous it is. I contacted a lawyer through your site and then I made an appointment with my doctor–I am going to see him this week. First and foremost, I want to ask him if I should stop taking Avandia and if it caused my heart problems. I still have a blockage they can't do anything about, except open-heart surgery. They don't want to do that unless it becomes life-threatening.
I never had any heart problems before taking Avandia. The cardiologist never even questioned my taking Avandia. The only time I didn't take a daily pill was when I was in the hospital, and the longest time I was in hospital was four days. My blood glucose went up at that time but they gave me insulin to control it. But I also had an allergic reaction to the contrast dye (given when you have the heart catheterization) and they gave me steroids to counteract this reaction, which also made my glucose level rise. This meant that my glucose level increase wasn't just because I stopped taking Avandia.
I heard that there are other drugs on the market that can give the same results as Avandia without these adverse side effects. I am hopeful that my doctor will prescribe something to replace this drug.
I haven't worked since October 2006 because of my heart condition. I filed for social security disability and haven't been approved yet but I have also claimed insurance through my company and that will start to cover me this August. I didn't expect to retire at this age-I just turned 47-and it's frustrating because I have no social life; all my friends still work and it's pretty boring sitting around the house all day; there's not much else I can do."
The Avandia website states that, "the FDA and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the maker of rosiglitazone, have long recognized that use of drugs containing this ingredient may be associated with certain heart problems."