Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Vote was overwhelming to keep Avandia on the market

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The votes of yesterday's advisory panel on Glaxo's Avandia demonstrate how dysfunctional this government can be. I was just reading up on the details. There were two key votes. On the question: does Avandia increase risk for heart attack, the vote was 20 to 3 in agreement. Yet, incredibly, the same panel also voted overwhelming - 22 to 1 - to keep Avandia on the market.

Coverage on the subject in today's New York Times described the meeting as "extraordinary" in that US Food and Drug Administration officials were openly in disagreement with each other as to what steps to take. As I mentioned yesterday, one of those officials, Dr. David Graham, said the drug should be withdrawn. However, Dr. Robert Meyer, another FDA high-up-official, disagreed.

Let's recap: Glaxo knew Avandia might cause heart trouble and informed the FDA of this. The FDA did nothing. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine (May 2007) stated the drug increased the risk of heart attack. The FDA twiddled its thumbs. Now this? The drug may stay on the market at the behest of the same FDA officials who voted in agreement that it poses a heart risk. Has the world gone mad? The sooner we get some reform at the FDA, the better off we will all be.

Also worth noting: the Times reports that Dr. Steven Nissen, whose NEJM article sparked the controversy, says he would have voted to remove Avandia from the shelves. Also quoted was Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen, a drug safety advocacy group. Observed Dr. Wolfe: "If Avandia were up for approval today based on what we know now, it would be rejected."

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