GPs' workload fears after drug ban

UK GP practices will have to review tens of thousands of diabetes patients after EU regulators backed the suspension of rosiglitazone's licence.

Rosiglitazone has been linked to increased risk of heart failure (Photograph: Jim Varney)
Rosiglitazone has been linked to increased risk of heart failure (Photograph: Jim Varney)

All patients taking Avandia or Avandamet, the products containing rosiglitazone, should be switched to other treatments over the next two months.

Last week, the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use decided that the benefits of rosiglitazone no longer outweighed its risks.

The recommendation, which affects the estimated 109,000 patients currently receiving rosiglitazone in the UK, will now pass to the European Commission.

The commission will then decide whether to adopt the recommendation as law.

MHRA chief executive Professor Kent Woods said: 'The suspension means that clinicians should review all patients currently on rosiglitazone and take appropriate action, according to the individual clinical situation, to change to another suitable treatment.'

Rosiglitazone has been linked to fluid retention and increased risk of heart failure. A senior diabetes GP warned the ban would be an 'unfortunate and unwelcome diversion' at the beginning of the flu season.

Norfolk GP Dr Martin Hadley-Brown, chairman of the Primary Care Diabetes Society, said he expected the change-over to occur within patients' next prescription cycle over the next two months.

He warned that the suspension would affect GP workload. 'At a time when we're just entering the flu vaccine programme, and on top of all the other work of the practice, this is an unfortunate and unwelcome diversion,' he said.

'However, the safety of patients must rightly be our first priority and the work will be done,' he said.

A GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman said the firm would issue a recall of products containing rosiglitazone some time in the near future.

Sufficient quantities of the products will be maintained in the supply chain to address short-term demand while the transition occurs.

Rosiglitazone ban
  • European regulators say the benefits of taking rosiglitazone no longer outweigh its risks.
  • GPs should switch patients to alternative treatments within the next prescription cycle.
  • This should be done as soon as possible to reduce patient anxiety.

Click here for the MHRA and EMA statements

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