How Does the Latest Glaxo Drug Scandal Affect Your Health?

It came out earlier this week that GlaxoSmithKline’s diabetes drug Avandia increases a patient's risk of a heart attack by 43 percent. This startling (but not too surprising) finding was literally “stumbled upon” by a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

As it turns out, Glaxo had been receiving bad press for only publicizing the positive results of their drug trials (a common practice in the industry). In fact, they had been concealing evidence that their antidepressants did not benefit children in any way and possibly increased their risk of killing themselves.

As part of a lawsuit settlement, Glaxo agreed to publicly disclose all of their drug trial results, for good or for bad.

Among the postings on the Glaxo site were 65 studies involving the popular Avandia. The Cleveland Clinic researchers, fortunately, came across the Web site while researching the drug, and were able to quickly discern that it posed significant risks to your heart.

Of course, drug companies are happy to publish studies that have positive results (although these, too, are often biased and tainted by conflict of interest) -- studies show that positive drug trials are overwhelmingly published more often than negative ones.

Clearly, the Avandia finding should be a major beacon to lawmakers that all drug trials should be publicly disclosed, but you don’t need to wait for lawmakers or researchers to tell you about a drug’s dangerous side effects before taking action.

Take matters into your own hands, ask questions (of yourself and your doctor) and get answers … before deciding to rely on a potentially dangerous drug to solve your problems.  

The New York Times May 23, 2007