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Widely Distributed Diabetes Drug Places Patients at Risk of Heart Attacks: Subject of a Canadian Pharmaceutical Class Action

Victor Lewin - Friday, June 03, 2011

Wagners Law Firm has recently commenced a class action law suit against GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Avandia, a widely used diabetes medication. GlaxoSmithKline has chosen profits over the health and well-being of the drug's consumer. It has disregarded research linking the drug to heart attacks and has failed too appropriately warn Canadians of this risk. Wagners has commenced a national-level class action, representing the interests of all Canadians who have consumed Avandia. Given the recent research set out below, Wagners is recommending to all Canadian consumers of the drug to see their physician about the efficacy of continuing with the use of Avandia.

The background to the class action is as follows:

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases suffered by Canadians. Roughly 2 million Canadians and 200 million people worldwide are afflicted. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form. This form of diabetes occurs when the body does not make enough insulin (a hormone needed to convert sugar and other food into energy) or cannot effectively use what it manages to produce.

GlaxoSmithKline is a company that develops, designs, manufactures, distributes, and markets pharmaceuticals. In 2000, they placed a new diabetes drug called Avandia on the Canadian market.

In 1999, Dr. John B. Buse (the president of the American Diabetes Association), a diabetes expert and Head of Endocrinology at the University of North Carolina, was involved as an investigator in an Avandia study. Following his investigational efforts, he gave a number of speeches at scientific meetings where he opined that the drug may carry cardiovascular risks. Rather than address these serious concerns with more research or proper labeling, GlaxoSmithKline focused its efforts of silencing Dr. Buse. They threatened him with a $4 million dollar law suit. The United States Senate Committee on Finance found the allegations of intimidation and the attempts to silence Dr. Buse to be true. Given that the drug was successfully placed on the Canadian market in 2000, the efforts to silence critics apparently worked.

GlaxoSmithKline made $2.2 billion in 2006 in Avandia sales in the U.S. alone. Suffice it to say, placing this drug on the Canadian market proved very profitable for the company. After complaints of heart attacks began to roll in, between 2005 and 2006, GlaxoSmithKline performed an overview analysis of multiple Avandia trials. The results of the study showed that patients taking Avandia had a 31% higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events such as heart attack due to obstruction of blood flow.

On May 21, 2007, Dr. Steven E. Nissen, a prominent cardiologist associated with the Cleveland Clinic, published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. It revealed a 43% higher risk of heart attack for those taking Avandia compared to people taking other diabetes drugs or no diabetes medication. Following this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for its part, has slapped a black box on Avandia's label, the most severe warning the agency can issue. No similar warning was issued in Canada.

By at least 2002, there were serious and substantial reports provided to GlaxoSmithKline of Avandia-related heart failure. Since then, many studies have shown the link between the drug and heart attacks. Buoyed by substantial profits, GlaxoSmithKline chose to provide grossly inadequate warnings to the drug's consumers.

The results of a six year long study, headed by Dr. David Juurlink from Toronto, were published on August 20, 2009 in the British Journal of Medicine. It showed that patients taking Avandia have higher risk of heart failure and death than those taking Actos. The Canadian scientists concluded that "continued use of [Avandia] may not be justified."

In spite of the known risks, GlaxoSmithKline has carried on business as usual. Seeing the wrong and injustice in this, Wagners Law Firm commenced an Avandia class action law suit against the pharmaceutical company on August 18, 2009. GlaxoSmithKline's behaviour has been profit-driven, at the expense of the consumer. In hopes to changing this behaviour, Wagners is representing the interests of all Canadians who have wrongly been affected by the drug and who deserve compensation.

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