The drug giant GlaxoSmithKline’s controversial diabetes drug Avandia (generic name rosiglitazone) works by helping diabetics balance their blood-sugar levels. But since its inception, it has been found to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes— and even death.
As many as 100,000 heart attacks, strokes, deaths and cases of heart failure may be directly attributed to Avandia since the drug was launched in 1999, according to FDA scientist Dr. David Graham. Yet physicians are still prescribing the drug to nearly half a million people, which translates into approximately $900 million in annual sales for GSK. How has this been allowed to happen? Let’s take a look at the history of this potentially lethal but still-legal drug, courtesy ofPBS: Continue reading →
There is strong evidence that medical researchers’ financial ties to their industry funders may directly influence their published positions in supporting the benefit or downplaying the harm of the products they are “studying”.
For example, there is often a demonstrated difference between internal drug company documents about the research trial results that they fund, and the articles reporting that research that end up in the medical journals that your doctor reads. The New England Journal of Medicine has referred to this practice as ‘selective outcome reporting’.
The Premier of my lovely province here on the West Coast of Canada promised during our spring election campaign that her government would pay for prescription drugs or products to help British Columbians quit smoking. But a new report in The Tyee suggests that some of the drugs the province wants to fund are controversial.
One of them, varenicline (which is made by drug giant Pfizer and sold as Champix in Canada and Europe, or as Chantix in the U.S.) has been associated with suicides and severe psychiatric side effects.
In fact, here’s what the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, an American non-profit, said about varenicline in its October 2008 quarterly update:
“Varenicline accounted for more reported serious injuries than any other prescription drug for a second quarter, a total of 1,001 new cases, including 50 additional deaths.”
And the government of France last month announced that it will stop paying for varenicline because of serious questions around its safety. Continue reading →
With a university degree in biology, young David landed a new job with a medical communications company. His first writing assignment was to produce scientific abstracts for studies of a newly approved antibiotic. Alas, the drug had a major weakness: it didn’t work on pneumococcus, a common bacterium. But this wasn’t something the drug’s manufacturer (David’s client) wanted doctors to know.
So David and his fellow medical writers were ordered to just avoid writing about it. Continue reading →