Docs Claim They Warned Glaxo SmithKline About Avandia

On a day when two of the nation’s top newspapers publish unflattering, potentially scandalous stories about them, Glaxo SmithKline has to be wondering what its public relations can do to fix the mess.
The Wall St. Journal ran a story about doctors who say they told Glaxo officials about Avandia’s dangers only to be encouraged to stop talking about it. Mary Money told Glaxo that she first noticed problems with Avandia in 1999. Money also stated that the FDA wasn’t responsive either. Money’s issues with Avandia began when she began treating a woman with congestive heart failure. The woman was also taking Avandia. Money decided to take the woman off Avandia and the symptoms subsided.
Dr. Lippman, head of Washington County Hospital’s diabetes center, also noticed similar problems with Avandia. Money and Lippman alerted Smith Kline Beecham (the name of the company before the 2001 merger) about their Avandia concerns. Glaxo officials met with the two doctors who presented case studies on 85 patients. According to Dr. Money, “They came to tell us how wrong we were, not to listen.”
A month after the meeting Glaxo officials wrote a letter to the hospital’s chief of staff urging him to force the doctors from talking about their Avandia concerns to other doctors in the Hagerstown Maryland hospital. Salvatore DiMercurio, the hospital’s chief of staff, decided to ignore the threatening letter from the pharmaceutical giant. He would side with his doctors. “It came down to whom do you trust — a doctor you know and have worked with, or the people who are threatening you?”
When Glaxo didn’t obtain the desired result, company officials chose to act as thugs, threatening doctors who dared to speak out against their diabetes drug.
If you think that that story is bad, let’s turn to the story in the New York Times. The Times has published an article stating that a prominent psychiatrist who had his own satellite radio program featured on National Public Radio was being paid by pharmaceutical companies on the side.
Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, host of “The Infinite Mind” earned $1.3 million from pharmaceutical companies during the span of the last seven years. Goodwin neglected to tell the host of the radio program about the potential conflict or the hefty payments. The financial relationship was uncovered by Senator Charles Grassley who has uncovered a number of these conflictual relationships between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry.
The problem with the Goodwin case lies in the fact that Goodwin’s pharmaceutical benefactors and the drugs they produce often receive favorable mention on his radio program. Take for instance Glaxo SmithKline who paid Goodwin a handsome fee ($329,000) for his promotion of the mood enhancing drug Lamictal in 2005. Congressional records indicate that on the very day, September 20, 2005, that Goodwin was paid $2,500 to give a promotional lecture on Lamictal, his radio program also featured a Lamictal plug. The NY Times quotes a particularly damning piece from Goodwin’s radio program that day, “Dr. Goodwin warned that children with bipolar disorder who are left untreated could suffer brain damage, a controversial view. “But as we’ll be hearing today,” Dr. Goodwin reassured his audience, “modern treatments — mood stabilizers in particular — have been proven both safe and effective in bipolar children.”
A bad PR day for pharmaceutical companies, especially Glaxo SmithKline but a good one for those concerned with consumer safety. Kudos to Senator Grassley for uncovering all this nefarious activity!