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By David Mendosa

Last Update: January 15, 2000

The newest treatment to help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood glucose—Actos—has a brand new Web site. In July the Food and Drug Administration approved Actos (pioglitazone hydrochloride) for sale in the United States. The site went live on the Internet in November.

Can you say Thiazolidinediones?

Unlike some earlier drugs that help your body release more insulin, such as the sulfonylureas, Actos makes the insulin that your body produces work better. It is one of three drugs in a class of insulin sensitizers that target insulin resistance, an underlying cause of type 2 diabetes.

Two other drugs in this class—Rezulin and Avandia—got earlier FDA approval. All three are known as thiazolidinediones, but since that seven-syllable word is almost impossible to pronounce, they are usually called TZDs or glitazones.

Takeda Pharmaceuticals America Inc. and Eli Lilly and Company jointly market Actos. Takeda Pharmaceuticals is a wholly owned subsidiary of Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., a global pharmaceutical company based in Osaka, Japan.

Founded by Chobei Takeda I in 1781 as a small shop selling traditional Japanese and Chinese medicines, Takeda Chemical Industries has grown to become Japan's largest pharmaceutical company with 1999 sales of more than $7 billion. Although two-thirds of the company's sales come from sales of prescription drugs, Actos is the first diabetes drug developed by Takeda to be sold in the U.S. While still in Phase III trials here, Takeda's Basen (voglibose) has been marketed in Japan since 1994. It is an alpha-glucosidase inhibitor that delays the digestion of sugars and starches.

Lilly, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, is also a pharmaceutical company with a worldwide reach. Honored by many people with diabetes for selling the first commercially available insulin in 1923, Lilly's total sales were more than $9 billion in 1998.

Perhaps surprising to many people with diabetes, only about 13 percent of those sales came from insulin, the only diabetes product that Lilly sold until recently. Since 1999, however, Lilly has marketed glucagon (which is used to treat insulin coma or insulin reaction resulting from low blood sugar), insulin pens, and now Actos.

The intelligently designed and attractive Actos Web site has several special features that help visitors gain a better understanding of type 2 diabetes. Among them is "Taking Action," a free quarterly newsletter specifically geared to people with type 2 diabetes. Each issue will provide essential information on diet, exercise, and lifestyle issues related to diabetes as well as an "ask the expert" column and updates on Actos, according to Emily Frische, Actos consumer marketing manager.

You can request the newsletter either by mail or e-mail. Just click on Free Offer.

Another resource on the site is the interactive questionnaire, Am I at Risk for Diabetes?. When you answer a few simple questions, the site will let you know immediately whether you should be tested for type 2 diabetes.

Of course, the site also has complete prescribing information for Actos. There is enough technical information here for both doctors and patients.

While the site already has most answers that people with diabetes ask about Actos, several updates are already planned, Frische says. They will include new information about Actos, tips on managing type 2 diabetes, and education information in languages other than English.

All in all, the Actos site is first rate. Maybe that's why the makers of the a drug in the same class, Avandia tell me that they are revamping their Web sites. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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