Interstitial cystitis and bladder cancer have many of the same symptoms, including an increased need to urinate and an urgency to urinate. Doctors will first rule out bladder cancer before making a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis.
If bladder cancer is the diagnosis, doctors will consider the patient's medical history and lifestyle to look for risk factors. If the patient has diabetes and has taken Actos, that could be the cause of the bladder cancer.
It's one of the best-kept secrets in the drug industry. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a wait-and-see attitude on Actos, a type 2 diabetes drug with billions of dollars behind it. Even though repeated studies have shown that Actos causes bladder cancer, the pill is still on pharmacy shelves.
Actos has been a best seller in the United States since its release in 1999. In 2007, it became the most commonly prescribed diabetes medication in the world. The drug made $3.4 billion for its manufacturer, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, in 2011.
Drugs in the same family as Actos also cause severe side effects. Actos' sister drugs, Rezulin and Avandia, are both restricted in the United States. Rezulin was banned after the drug caused liver failure side effects that killed 63 Americans. Avandia is linked to congestive heart failure. Doctors will not allow new prescriptions of Avandia to be written in the United States.
Actos' and Avandia's chemical makeups are similar, and the FDA put a black-box warning on both of their labels in 2007. The black-box warning is the strongest warning label the FDA can put on medication. It is only used when drugs can cause serious injury or death.
Bladder cancer is one of Actos' most deadly side effects. In 2012, a study published in the British Medical Journal found the risk of bladder cancer can increase as much as 83 percent with long-term use of Actos.
The exact reason why patients are getting bladder cancer after taking Actos is unknown. It is suspected the drug forms microcrystals in the bladder. The crystals may irritate the bladder until cancer finally develops.
Takeda Pharmaceuticals continues to sell Actos despite these findings. Actos is still Takeda's best-selling product. Thousands of people are filing Actos lawsuits after developing bladder cancer, while the company is steaming ahead with its dangerous product.
The FDA is also sitting on its hands. In its last safety communication, it stated that it plans to wait on the results of a study that will conclude in 2013 before it makes a decision on Actos. France and Germany have banned the drug.
William Richards researches and writes about prescription drugs and medical devices for Drugwatch.com.