A new drug that cuts down on the number of pills people with type 2 diabetes must take to control their blood sugar is about to hit the market.

The drug, called Avandaryl, combines two other diabetes drugs -- Avandia and Amaryl -- to help improve control of blood sugar. It is the first fixed-dose tablet combining these two different classes of diabetes medications.

The drug is just now becoming available after being approved in November 2005. Diet and exercise are also recommended for patients taking Avandaryl, states the drug’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline, in a news release.

More than 20 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of those people have type 2 diabetes, according to 2005 statistics from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a branch of the National Institutes of Health.

Controlling blood sugar is a key part of diabetes treatment.

Safety Information

The FDA and GlaxoSmithKline recently warned doctors of very rare cases of new or worsening diabetic eye complications in patients taking the diabetes drugs Avandia or Avandamet, which both contain the drug rosiglitazone. The complication, called macular edema, can lead to blurry vision.

Avandaryl also contains rosiglitazone, since Avandia is one of Avandaryl’s ingredients. Patients taking Avandaryl should get their eyes checked regularly by a doctor, states GlaxoSmithKline.

Other possible side effects of Avandaryl include low blood sugar, tiredness, weight gain, and swelling or fluid retention that could worsen heart failure.

Avandaryl is not approved for use with insulin. One of the drug’s components, when taken with insulin, may raise the risk of other heart problems.

Blood tests should be done to check for liver problems before starting and while taking Avandaryl, states GlaxoSmithKline. Women who are pregnant, nursing, or considering pregnancy should talk to their doctor before taking Avandaryl.

“Avandaryl may increase your risk of pregnancy,” states GlaxoSmithKline’s news release.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: News release, GlaxoSmithKline. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “National Diabetes Statistics.” WebMD Medical News: “FDA Warning for 2 Diabetes Drugs.”