This is not very happy news for diabetics. It is indeed a bittersweet pill that they will have to depend on. As a ban on anti-diabetic drug pioglitazone has been imposed the rates of diabetes medicine will go through a hike.

The drug ban

A week ago the Central Government got into action and banned anti-diabetic drug pioglitazone as it can have a detrimental effect on the weak hearted and elderly people.

Dr Siddarth Shah, diabetologist, SL Raheja Hospital in Mahim “We are appealing to patients that they should immediately consult their physicians for alternative lines of treatment. Pioglitazones were excellent insulin sensitizers. However, patients with weak hearts or elderly patients were not given pioglitazone due to side effects like weight gain and congestive heart failure.In young patients, however, the drug in smaller doses worked well.”

This sudden change in medication will actually drive people around the bend as diabetics generally consume a pioglitazone tablet that costs only about Rs4-Rs8.

Doctor’s viewpoint

As Dr. Khan comments “While a pioglitazone tablet cost Rs4-Rs8, patients who were using the drug will now have to shift to costlier options like gliptin, which cost up to Rs50 per tablet or insulin, each vial of which costs between Rs150-Rs500.”

Nearly 30 lakh people in India have Type 2 diabetes because of a faulty lifestyle. Generally about 20% out of this lot is on a drug combination including pioglitazones or on standalone. The ban has resulted in the removal of all those drugs where the composition mentions pioglitazone .

The government has taken into account that pioglitazone maybe one of the causative factors of bladder cancer. Regarding this matter Dr Vijay Pannikar, diabetologist, Lilavati Hospital, Bandra states, “The drug has gradually been phased out in France due to a potential risk of bladder cancer. However, even US continue to use the drug, albeit with a black box warning listing the health risks that the drug poses.”

Other options for diabetics

But this sudden decision by the Central Government is a matter of speculation amongst the doctor fraternity and Dr Shashank Joshi, president, Indian Academy of Diabetes believes “Instead of imposing an outright ban on the drug, an expert committee ought to have been formed to study the pros and cons of using the drug. More so, the sale of the drug can be regulated by putting it in scheduled category so that it is available on specialized prescription from an endocrinologist or a diabetologist.”

The doctors are trying their level best to allay the people’s fear regarding the upping in expenditure due to the medicine purchase in future. They reassure that alternative drug therapies are available that are being used since ages.

With the ban on pioglitazones, diabetics may have to shell out more almost three times more money for diabetes treatment but time-tested alternatives are available, said doctors, allaying fears.

“Metformin, Sulphonyureas and Insulin are time tested alternatives” they confirm. But because of the easy availability of pioglitazones, their side effects have taken a back seat.

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