Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Remember When "These Corporations Can Get Away With Murder" Was Just An Expression?

Because it's not anymore. They're making deliberate decisions now that can directly lead to your death.

I'm not talking about BP pretending to have a plan for a catastrophic oil spill when they didn't.

I'm not talking about Walgreen's implementing a new pharmacy paradigm that a good number of its employees say leads to more prescription errors.

I'm talking about ignoring the fact that people's hearts are stopping because looking the other way as the EKG flatlines is in the interest of the corporate bottom line.

Deliberately dead. That's what I'm talking about.

Hyperbolic you say? I'll report, you decide. And by me reporting I mean The New York Times:

In the fall of 1999, the drug giant SmithKline Beecham secretly began a study to find out if its diabetes medicine, Avandia, was safer for the heart than a competing pill, Actos, made by Takeda.
Avandia’s success was crucial to SmithKline, whose labs were otherwise all but barren of new products. But the study’s results, completed that same year, were disastrous. Not only was Avandia no better than Actos, but the study also provided clear signs that it was riskier to the heart.

I'll point out here that 1999 was 11 years ago. Around the time Big Pharma was circling the wagons around Rezulin, another diabetes drug that was to die for.

"Surely the drug industry learned their lesson from that fiasco and reported the dangers of Avandia right away!!!" those of you who have never heard of Baycol, Bextra, Duract, Posicor, Propulsid, Tequin, Redux, Trasylol, Seldane, and Vioxx are saying. Those of you who are familiar with those meds probably won't be surprised at what actually happened:

But instead of publishing the results, the company spent the next 11 years trying to cover them up...“This was done for the U.S. business, way under the radar,” Dr. Martin I. Freed, a SmithKline executive, wrote in an e-mail message dated March 29, 2001, about the study results... “Per Sr. Mgmt request, these data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK,”

Could the gun be any more smoking? GlaxoSmithKline knew Avandia was causing heart attacks and strokes, and didn't say a word.

In one document, the company sought to quantify the lost sales that would result if Avandia’s cardiovascular safety risk “intensifies.” The cost: $600 million from 2002 to 2004 alone, the document stated.

Which means if they can get away with this with a penalty of less than $600 million, they win.

And they have. An FDA advisory panel voted today to let GSK continue to sell this heart attack in a bottle.

Mary Anne Rhyne, a GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman, said that the company had not provided the results of its study because they “did not contribute any significant new information.”

I think that's the part that pisses me off the most. They don't even care enough to come up with a line of bullshit that is even plausible. Your drug causes more people to die than its main competitor and that's not  significant new information? Can you at least make a little effort when you lie to me?

“When drug companies withhold data regarding safety concerns about their medicines, they put patients at risk,” said Senator Max Baucus.

Thanks. Thanks for that. 100,000 heart-related problems caused by GlaxoSmithKline's deceit. 100,000 people's lives ended or ruined. And all we get in response is a Senator with a firm grasp of the obvious. Not that he's going to do anything about it mind you.

The Unabomber only killed 3 people you know. Timothy McVeigh 168. Those masters of evil at Al-Qaeda ended the lives of 2,995 on September 11, or around 3 percent of the number of people affected by the way GlaxoSmithKline chose to act when it learned of Avandia's risks.

Which tells me, Al-Qaeda's mistake was that they neglected to sell stock before their death spree.

If you disagree, by all means, ask your doctor if Avandia is right for you.


Nurse J said...

if this was facebook, i would like this. as it is, i like it anyway.

Pharmacy Mike said...

The best was the "patient" who gave a speech in defense of the drug saying how he owes his life to Avandia.

I'm sure the author of that speech was employed by GSK.

I just don't understand it. There is another drug out there (Actos) that is in the same pharmacologic category, is equally effective in lowering A1c, has a better lipid profile, and doesn't cause heart attacks and strokes. Therefore, what the hell is the point of Avandia?

That sets a nice precedent, huh?

Anonymous said...

Al Queda sold stock before its death spree and there were people who made a ton of money. Nothing ever came of the investigation, but it was clear that an unusually large amount of short selling happened prior to the attack. This ain't conspiracy theory; you can look it up.

Wet Blanket said...

Ok, first, GSK is so far in the wrong here that they can't even see "right" from where they're standing.

But now a quibble. 100,000 heart-related problems because of Avandia. But how many more heart-relate problems is that than those people would have had using Actos? If we're going to use "number of people harmed" as a measure of evilness, I think we need an accurate number.

normie said...

My friend works for Walgreens and she was telling me that with the new central fill here in AZ two pharmacists in the main fill center have 8 seconds each to review/read the script and process it. That seems like a really small amount of time to me!

Anonymous said...

I filled two Rx's for avandia yesterday. I can't help but ask out loud "why?" It doesn't even help that much

DrugMonkey, Master of Pharmacy said...

Wet Blanket,

I did post a link to the study that was the genesis of that 100,000 number, which you are free to read. It doesn't cost anything to click on the links I put in. Seriously.

Wet Blanket said...

Ok, I looked at the study. I'm not used to reading these things (that's why I read your blog), but I don't see where you're getting 100,000. In Table 7, I see 48,032 "excess events". That's still a big number, but help me out here. Where are you getting 100,000?

I also see, in Table 4, that the incidence rate increases by roughly 23% in Avandia versus Actos. Very significant.

I'm curious, though - is there some offsetting benefit of Avandia over Actos that might make up the difference? Like, 48,000 more died from heart problems, but 52,000 fewer died from explosive diarrhea? Just trying to figure out why a doctor would continue to prescribe Avandia instead of Actos.

DrugMonkey, Master of Pharmacy said...

Wet Blanket,

The study only actually looked at Medicare patients. The 100,000 number was reached from taking into account the number of people not on Medicare who take Avandia.

Rock solid science? No. But a pretty good guidepost. And the best one we have to date.

And to date, there is no known advantage to Avandia over Actos. None. And I have a feeling, if one could be teased out of the data they have, GSK would not hesitate to have an army of big-breasted bimbo sales reps in every doctor's office in the country letting them know what it was. On this subject, GSK's silence speaks volumes.

Brett said...

gah.... soon you'll be telling me zetia doesn't decrease mortality...

Keith said...

A very good post. We need to question why the FDA has let the drug stay on the market when there is a better alternative. As you say, these drug companies can get away with murder. A bad drug can kill more people than the 9/11 attack. Look how Americans go ballistic when terrorists strike America, but never pay any attention when a drug company "kills" thousands more. The same could be said for our war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have lost more American lives than 9/11 and it has cost us trillion of dollars. But, people take the emotional side, not the 'logical' side and try to weigh the consequences of actions.

ThatDeborahGirl said...

Makes me wonder whatever happened to our old "Pharmacists for Life Pal" Karen Brauer.

Oh, I forgot. They're only interested in the unborn, not people who are already here.

Keith said...

Karen Brauer is president of Pharmacists For Life International. She started a blog several years ago and I would go there and post comments. I was more interested in seeing changes in pharmacy that would improve pharmacist's lives. But, her primary interest, maybe only interest was about abortion and Plan B. The Avandia story is an OUTRAGE! I can't believe the FDA has left it on the market all this time. Well, I can. I once contacted them about a bad rx iron preperation that could harm a child. I had to keep calling and sending emails until the company, several weeks later, finally pulled the drug from the market. Oh..they have field offices and you have to contact a certain one. I told them the problem with the drug. All they had to do was walk into a pharmacy, pull the suspension from the shelf and pour it out and look at it. It was a messy glob. No rocket scientist needed. No hard work..just tell some FDA inspector to walk into a pharmacy and pull the bottle from the difficult and how long should that take? After all, you have children's lives at stake!

Jim said...

Of course, those GSK sales reps with the bolt-ons would buy shit for face cream if GSK told them to.

I used to date one of these GSK dopes and she and her ilk told me that generics only have to have 80% of the active ingredient. That was their 80/20 rule. They were so stupid they didn't even believe me when I showed them the page from the FDA website regarding bioequivalency.