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Diabetes is an injurious disease that requires constant vigilance from its sufferers. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the body produces no insulin, a hormone which allows the body to utilize a simple sugar called glucose for energy and many other vital functions. Until the early part of the 20th century, Type I diabetes was a painful death sentence. Today, a person with Type 1 diabetes can receive daily doses of insulin and lead a normal and even a highly athletic life.Type 2 diabetes, sometimes known as adult-onset diabetes, is much more common, making up about 95% of all cases. In people with Type 2, the body either produces too little insulin or is unable to utilize insulin properly. Type 2 diabetes frequently leads to serious health problems such as heart attacks and strokes, kidney troubles, blindness, and a greater risk of serious infections and amputations.

Advances in treatment and in medicines have greatly improved the quality of life for the rapidly growing number of people with Type 2 diabetes, and when GlaxoSmithKline introduced a new Type 2 drug called Avandia, hopes were high for even more improvement. The drug came on the market in 1999, and GSK marketed it aggressively. Prescriptions soared, and by 2006 sales reached $2.8 billion.

Then, in 2007, the rest of the Avandia story surfaced. The truth that became fatally clear was that GSK had been selling false hope. Reports showed that GSK had rushed Avandia to market without doing sufficient testing. Patients on Avandia were suffering a significantly higher risk of death from heart attacks than patients on older diabetes medications. Another study found that Avandia weakens bones and leads to osteoporosis, among other serious personal injuries.

What was equally clear was that GSK had known about the injuries associated with Avandia since the drug came to market, but company officials had done everything possible to conceal the dangers, even intimidating doctors and a researcher who saw the dangers of the drug. When researchers expressed their concerns and GSK‘s own scientists agreed with the researchers, company officials condemned their studies.

GSK was able to bring Avandia to market and to keep it on the market only because the big pharmaceutical companies have friends in high places at the FDA. Those friends have consistently allowed the drug companies to sell products that are ineffective, expensive, and dangerous.

So it was only when the media began to cover the problems associated with Avandia that the FDA began to pretend that it was more concerned with the health of the American public than with the balance sheet of its friends at GSK. The FDA did send a nasty letter to GSK, but previous FDA actions had showed that the agency’s primary concern was to keep the profits from Avandia flowing.

In March of 2006, the FDA punished one of its own employees when she asked for a stronger warning on Avandia packaging.

In July of 2007, Dr. David Graham called for Avandia’s complete withdrawal from the market. He estimated that it had caused up to 205,000 heart attacks, strokes and deaths from 1999 to 2006. And, he said that for every month that Avandia remains on the market, another 1,600 to 2,200 patients are likely to suffer heart attacks or strokes. The FDA‘s predictable response to his pleas was to vote 22-1 to allow Avandia to remain on the market.

The most revealing study of all may be one that showed that in addition to being more dangerous than older drugs, Avandia has also proven to be less effective. Metformin, sold under the name Glucophage, has been on the market in the United States since 1994, and its safety record is much better than Avandia’s. Glucophage is also considerably less expensive than Avandia.

GSK brought Avandia to market knowing that the drug was dangerous and that it was no more effective than the drugs already on the market. The actions of GSK officials have earned billions for the company at the expense of thousands of innocent people upon whom personal injuries and death have been inflicted.

If Avandia has harmed you or a loved one, contact me immediately to find out if legal action against GSK can compensate you for your suffering.

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Richard Alexander