Explosive! That’s the bombshell dropped by The New York Times yesterday. The article involves the drug Avandia, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (introduced to the market by its predecessor SmithKline Beecham). Avandia entered the market in 1999 as a drug to treat diabetes. Since then, GlaxoSmithKline has reaped enormous revenue from the sale of this drug. To put these sales in perspective, it appears that in 2006, the company received $2.2 Billion in revenue from marketing Avandia.
In 2007 (after approximately 8 years of selling this drug), a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel issued a black box warning saying that this diabetes treatment was linked to potential increased risks of heart attack. GlaxoSmithKline continued to market Avandia after this additional warning.
Now, we learn additional information. Apparently, the company did its own secret internal testing, back in 1999. What did it reveal? According to the New York Times, the secret 1999 study results indicated the increased risk of heart attacks associated with Avandia. Did the company stop marketing Avandia? No. Did the company publish the results? Apparently not. In fact, the Times article indicates that internal corporate emails specifically stated that the results should be hidden.
Is this the first time that this drug maker has been caught concealing important health and safety information? Again, the answer is no. Several years ago, the company was found to have hidden data linking its anti-depressant Paxil to suicidal thoughts in children and teenagers.
The drug maker is not alone in receiving blame in this situation. In past years, the FDA has failed in its duty to protect us and allowed many unsafe products to be marketed. Hopefully, the FDA will now "step up to the plate" and do its job. This week an FDA advisory committee is meeting to discuss the developments concerning Avandia. Hopefully, the complete nature of this drug will be revealed so that an honest decision can be made concerning its continued use.