After two days of deliberation, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel voted Wednesday to keep the diabetes drug Avandia on the market despite studies that suggest the medication puts people at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes. The decision was hardly decisive. Among five possible recommendations, the option to withdraw Avandia from the market received the most votes, however a majority voted to keep it on the market in some form. Thus the drug will still be available.
But don’t expect physicians to write as many prescriptions for the Type 2 diabetes drug as they have in the past. Avandia brought in $1 billion in sales last year with more than 2 million prescriptions filled. But studies showing heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular-related deaths in people who used Avandia have prompted national experts in a Consensus Statement of the American Diabetes Association to unanimously advise that GlaxoSmithKline’s blockbuster medication not be used.
While Avandia will still be available, the FDA vote showed a strong majority – 21 out of 33 members – believe Avandia increases heart risk. Twelve out of 33 members voted to take it off the market, and 10 out of 33 voted to leave it on with strong restrictions.
And while the FDA advisory panel heard damning evidence on the safety of Avandia, it was reported that GSK had agreed to settle some 10,000 of the 13,000 lawsuits filed against it alleging that Avandia caused heart attacks or strokes.
What diabetics should glean from the vote is that they need to be aware that there is a dark cloud of suspicion hanging over the safety of Avandia, which should be enough evidence for them to consider the many safer alternatives on the market.