by Christina England
September 7, 2010
GlaxoSmithKline the drug giants, have spent the last few days trying to stay off the bottom of the FTSE 100, especially after the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said that it’s diabetes treatment Avandia should be pulled from sale, over concerns that it can lead to heart attacks in some patients. This came at a particularly difficult time for GlaxoSmithKline and was yet another nail in their coffin, as Pandemrix, their vaccine for the swine flu, is currently also under the magnifying glass, having been suspended by Finland, Sweden, Poland and Nepal, due to a growing number of reports of adverse reactions.
Last night the UK documentary series Panorama, revealed that despite warnings that the drug Avandia should be removed from the market, millions of prescriptions for the drug were still being written every day and doctors had been ignoring the advice given, by failing to warn patients about potential safety issues. The safety trials which had been studied by the agencies approving the drug, were shown to be substandard and it was revealed that it was GSK themselves who had carried out the safety trials showing only the ones that boosted favourable results. These revelations appeared to have caused GSK to finally hit the bottom of the FTSE with a massive thud, as shares plummeted 19.5p to 1,249p. This was despite their insistence as usual that both Avandia and Pandemrix were both safe and effective.
I am sure that even GSK would agree with me, that this has definitely been a ‘annus horribilis’
The term ‘annus horribilis’ for those of you who are not familiar, means a horrible year and was derived from the Latin phrase ‘annus mirabilis’ – year of wonders (or miracles). The saying was made popular after Queen Elizabeth II used it to describe 1992 – the year that the marriages of her two sons Charles and Andrew broke down and Windsor Castle caught fire. This year however, it is particularly apt to describe the year the drug giants Glaxo Smith Kline are having.
Last night the UK public were horrified to learn that the popular diabetes drug Avandia used to lower the blood sugar in millions of diabetes sufferers, was actually causing many of them to suffer heart attacks. Panorama’s brilliant journalist Shelly Jofre explained how GSK bends the facts, fixes data and have huge conflicts of interest.
Yesterday’s Daily Mail (who had a privileged early viewing of this excellent documentary), also described the GSK antics. In their article by Jerome Burne Secrecy of drugs watchdogs puts us all in danger Burne wrote-
“it is now clear that the drug regulator in Europe (The European Medicines Agency) which licensed Avandia for the UK ten years ago ,was worried about a heart attack risk even then. But this was never made clear to patients and the trial requested by the agency to test specifically for heart attack safety took nine years to report”
Of course these were not the only two problems that GSK have encountered this year. Not so long ago the Rotarix vaccine was suspended by the USA, Switzerland and Jordan because it was found to contain pig virus. Although cleared of causing potential harm this could now upset some Muslim activist groups as they cannot have vaccines that contain pork substances.