12 July 2013
Anti–diabetic drug pioglitazone, which was banned by the health ministry a few days ago, is likely to be back in pharmacies soon. Sources in the ministry told TOI that the government decided to revoke the ban on Thursday after a meeting with 12 doctors, a majority of whom argued there was no affordable alternative to the drug which is prescribed for a large number of diabetics in the country.
The ministry will formally revoke the ban on manufacture and sale of the drug within a week. Till then, it will insist that pharmaceutical companies print a warning on the cartons. At the meeting, a couple of doctors maintained that the drug carried the risk of causing bladder cancer, while many others said the ban made diabetes management ineffective and expensive.
"Most doctors wanted the drug. So, we will reintroduce it. But it will be sold with a warning that high doses can cause bladder cancer. We expect doctors to inform patients about its risk," said a senior health department official.
The Chennai–based Madras Diabetes Research Foundation had surveyed 70 diabetologists across India and found 13 patients developed bladder cancer after being prescribed pioglitazone. "It is possible that even lower dosages increases risk in Indians," said foundation director Dr V Mohan, who was invited for the safety review. But many other doctors argued that studies linking the drug to bladder cancer were done in the West. They said it should not have been banned without scientific evidence about its effect on Indians.
Some others said the drug is essential for Indians because it works well on people with insulin resistance.
Dr A Ramachandran, MD of Dr A Ramachandran’s Diabetes Hospital, said that it was purely a knee–jerk reaction on the government’s part to ban the drug"Indians have more insulin resistance, so pioglitazone is a valuable and cost effective drug in Indian population," said Dr V Balaji, director and senior consultant diabetologist at Dr Balaji Diabetes Care Centre.