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FDA: No Decision on Whether to Pull Diabetes Drug Avandia Off the Market
Date:2/22/2010

reports, obtained early by the Times, are yet another chapter in Avandia's checkered history. The drug was once taken by millions worldwide, but that changed after a study released in early May of 2007 by the Cleveland Clinic suggested that Avandia carried cardiovascular risks. That study, which included more than 28,000 people, found that Avandia increased a user's odds of heart attack by 43 percent compared to those not taking the medicine.

At the time, Dr. Bruce M. Psaty of the University of Washington -- who also co-wrote an accompanying editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine -- urged the FDA to restrict access to Avandia and cited both the agency and the drug's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, for poor oversight.

"The primary problem here is that studies that were needed early on about the health benefits of this drug were never done," Psaty told HealthDay. "As a result of the failure of the sponsor to do long-term clinical trials to show health benefits, as a result of the failure of the FDA to insist on it, we have data that are weak."

Following on the Cleveland Clinic study, the FDA demanded "black box" warnings on labeling for both Avandia and Actos, warning of a potentially heightened risk for heart failure. However, other studies found no raised level of heart risk, and at the time the agency said it had not reached a definitive conclusion on the data.

In November of the same year, the FDA updated Avandia's labeling to include a caution regarding heart attack risk. At the time, Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said that, "we are keeping Avandia on the market because we have concluded there isn't enough evidence to indicate that the risk of heart attack is higher for Avandia than other type 2 diabetes treatments."

The story got more complicated in 2008, as a number of studies emerged tying the use of Avandia to increased bone f
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