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FDA Panel Splits Over Avandia Ban

20-12 Vote to Strengthen Avandia Warning, but Many Panelists Want Ban
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

July 14, 2010 -- Avandia should carry more severe label warnings and perhaps require patient education, most members of an FDA advisory panel today voted.

However, 12 of the panel's 33 members advised the FDA to take the drug off the market. Several other panel members said they nearly voted the same way.

Only three panelists voted to leave Avandia on the market with its current label. Many panelists who voted not to ban Avandia said they did so because of worries that a small number of patients may need the drug if other treatments fail.

Ten of the panelists want Avandia maker GlaxoSmithKline to develop patient and doctor education programs to raise awareness of the drug’s risks. Avandia and Actos, the other approved drug in the same class, both increase risk of heart failure.

But there is growing but inconclusive evidence that Avandia also increases the risk of heart attack, fracture, infection, and high cholesterol.

"The evidence is much less convincing than we would like it to be … but there is meaningful evidence of Avandia harm, and I have not heard meaningful evidence of benefit that cannot be obtained by another drug. The public would be best served by not having the drug available," said panelist Richard Platt, MD, chair of population medicine at Harvard University.

"I absolutely could not vote for withdrawal," said panelist Arthur J. Moss, MD, professor of cardiology at the University of Rochester, N.Y. "I wanted to send a message to the FDA because a proper trial should have been done in 1993 when they first had an investigational new drug application [for Avandia], and that trial still needs to be done.

Critics: Avandia Clinical Trial Unethical

The split vote puts the decision on whether to ban Avandia back in the hands of the FDA. Although the FDA is likely to go with the panel vote, it may decide to ban the drug based on the reservations expressed by the majority of panelists.

The dramatic panel vote followed a discussion in which the 33 panel members agonized over their decision. They are fully aware that their deliberations will be a major factor in the way the FDA approves all new drugs in the future.

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