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Diabetes drug alert.

Recent research from Harvard Medical School and the Public Citizen Health Research group suggests that doctors may not be paying close enough attention to drug-warning labels. In a study on metformin (Glucophage) that appears in a special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) devoted entirely to the epidemic of type 2 diabetes, researchers reported that one fourth of patients receiving Glucophage prescriptions from a hospital pharmacy in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, should not be taking the drug. In patients with kidney disease and those taking medication for heart failure, metformin can cause a rare side effect called lactic acidosis, a buildup of lactic acid in the blood that is fatal in half of all cases. While the drug information package warns that metformin can cause lactic acidosis, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania found that one quarter of 204 patients who received metformin over six months at the hospital had at least one "absolute contraindication" to the therapy. Caution is advised for other patients as well, including those with signs of liver disease and with conditions that decrease the body's oxygen supply, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"Our analysis leads to the conclusion that metformin continues to be prescribed to patients who are at high risk for lactic acidosis," Dr. Amy T. Calabrese and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh previously had noted in findings published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. "What is particularly alarming is the fact that the problem may be even more widespread than is evident from our data."
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Publication:Medical Update
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
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