A federal medical advisory panel recommended Wednesday that Avandia, a controversial diabetes drug, should either be withdrawn from the market or have sales severely restricted because it increases the risks of heart attacks.
The panel’s votes, taken after two days of intensive scientific discussions, were a blow to GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Avandia. The company argued that Avandia is a safe and needed option in treating diabetes.
But panel members voiced great skepticism about the company’s trustworthiness after questions were raised about its clinical trials. And internal company documents showed that the company for years kept crucial safety information about Avandia from the public.
The panel took six votes on a variety of issues, but its most important came near the end of the meeting when asked what the Food and Drug Administration should do. Of the panel’s 33 members, 12 voted that Avandia should be withdrawn; 10 voted that its sales should be restricted and the warnings on its label enhanced; 7 voted only to support enhanced warnings on the drug’s label; and 3 voted that the drug should continue to be sold with its present warnings unchanged. One member abstained, and no one voted for a final option, to weaken the label’s present heart warnings…
FDA will then issue a decision in the near future. One wonders why panel members would vote to restrict the drug’s use, rather than taking it off the market, when Avandia does not appear to provide the benefits for which one treats diabetes: a reduction in the consequences of the disorder.