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GlaxoSmithKline Plays a Shell Game with Avandia — Consumers Lose

07/13/2010
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Internal documents obtained by the New York Times reveal that not only did GSK know of the cardiac risks associated with its drug as soon as Avandia was introduced in 1999, but that it fought intensively to keep those risks from becoming public.

According to the Times, in the fall of 1999 SmithKlineBeecham (who merged with Glaxo Wellcome in 2000 to form GSK), secretly began to study whether its creation or a competing pill, Actos, was safer for the heart.

What SKB learned at that time was that not only was Avandia not better than Actos, but that Avandia was riskier to the heart.  Company executives quickly began describing the studies as “way under the radar,” and senior management directed that “these data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK,” it is no wonder that the consumer and the FDA did not know discover the dangers of Avandia until recently — GSK buried it.

Why bury dangers such as these? The reason should surprise no one: money, and lots of it.  An internal document recovered by the Times estimated a loss of $600 million dollars between 2002 and 2004 alone if Avandia’s cardiovascular safety risk intensified.  We are not talking small profits.

Even to those willing to give corporations the benefit of the doubt, individually, the meaning of this revelation is impossible to ignore – $600 million dollars in our pockets or the health and safety of worldwide consumers?  And to make matters worse, GSK has a history of hiding data.  In 2004, it was found that GSK had hidden data that showed that its drug Paxil led children and teenagers to have more suicidal thoughts and behaviors For this corporation and most in the pharmaceutical industry (where hiding results of negative clinical trials was fashionable), the choice they have really is that simple: profits or safety — and safety lost.

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