A Senate report said Saturday that drug maker GlaxoSmithKline knew of possible heart attack risks tied to Avandia, its diabetes medication, years before such evidence became public.
Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Chuck Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican, released the report, which follows a two-year inquiry.
They are also asking the US Food and Drug Administration why it allowed a clinical trial of Avandia to continue even after the agency estimated that the drug caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007.
Duty to warn patients
In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg that was also released Saturday, the senators said the committee's report was based on researchers' studies of Avandia, internal GlaxoSmithKline documents and FDA documents. They said committee investigators had interviewed GlaxoSmithKline and agency employees as well as what it called anonymous whistleblowers.
Based on its knowledge of the heart attack risks, GlaxoSmithKline "had a duty to sufficiently warn patients and the FDA of its concerns in a timely manner," the report said.
Instead, the company tried to downplay findings that the drug could increase cardiovascular risks while also working to downplay findings that a rival medication might reduce such risks, it said.
GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement the drug is safe. It said the committee report took data out of context from analyses of Avandia.
In their letter to Hamburg, the senators said the documents the committee reviewed included an analysis conducted by two safety officials at the agency. The analysis compared Avandia to Pfizer Inc.'s Actos diabetes drug, and found that Avandia has an increased risk of heart attack and heart failure.
The letter also quoted the researchers as saying that said the study itself was dangerous, as it meant patients continued to take the drug.
FDA spokesman George Strait said the FDA is reviewing new data on Avandia and will present those findings to an advisory committee this summer.
"Meanwhile, Commissioner Hamburg is reaching out to ensure that she has a complete understanding and awareness of all of the data and issues concerning this drug," Strait said. - (Sapa/AP, February 2010)