Terrence Allen is a midde-aged warehouse worker in Attica, New York, who took Actos for his diabetes. He developed bladder cancer after taking Actos for five years. “If somebody had told me I could get cancer from Actos, I never would have taken it,” he told Bloomberg News. “There were other products out there that could have helped treat my diabetes without putting me through all of this.”
He said in December that he has had two surgeries to remove cancerous tissue from his bladder and may be facing another after the Christmas holiday.
“To some degree, I would like my pound of flesh from the company,” he said.
Doctors often prescribe Actos to type 2 diabetes patients who need to manage their blood sugar. For that distinct task, Actos does what it is supposed to do. But for long-term users, the drug can cause extreme and serious side effects to develop — including the potential development of bladder cancer and heart attack.
More than 10 million people have taken Actos for help with their diabetes, but there is no such thing as a typical user of Actos. That's because drugs affect people in different ways, and few people have the same medical experience.
For some Actos users, the early symptoms of bladder cancer may go unnoticed. One side effect of Actos that can indicate a more serious problem is an increased need to urinate. But that symptom, as we know, also comes just from living. It comes along with aging.
Many times, Actos patients do not associate the taking of their diabetes drug with having to go to the bathroom more often. They WILL take notice, though, if/when they experience pain during urination or see blood in their urine. That's when most people know that it's time to call the doctor and find out what's really going on. (And the sooner the better. Once bladder cancer has progressed to stage 3, there is only a 50% chance of recovery.) Once patients experience one of these symptoms, they should make an appointment with their primary care physician — often the doctor that originally prescribed the medication — for a complete medical history. From there, the doctor can give a referral to see a urologist for tests.
The most common theme among people who have serious Actos side effects is surprise. How, they ask, is a drug that is supposed to help me live with diabetes giving me cancer? Shock and anger are common emotions when people learn that their cancer could have been caused by a medication that their trusted physician prescribed to them — often years earlier.
Some patients begin taking Actos, hear about its serious risks, quickly contact their physician to change medication and save themselves from future problems. Many patients, however, only hear about the risks of Actos years later, after they have been diagnosed with bladder cancer.
About 10,000 patients are expected to sue Actos' manufacturer.
This was written by Alanna Ritchie, a writer for Drugwatch.com. An English major, she is an accomplished technical and creative writer. Thanks to Alanna and John LaGrace for this story. Some quotations were reported by TheSandersFirm.com and Bloomberg News.