Avandia Debated LIVE
This is my site Written by Alex on July 14, 2010 – 8:54 am   

This is, of course, fascinating. The NYT is live blogging the debate on whether to pull the diabetes drug Avandia from the shelves. A federal advisory panel is hearing testimoney about how safe it is, how safe it isn’t, what the problems may be… when did science becaome so much about opinion? When did clinical trials have so much wiggle room? Makes one wonder. But, for now, here is a preview of the debate in Tuesday’s Times and are posts from the debate and you can comce back here for the complete play-by-play once it’s over and done.

Click here for direct to NYT coverage.

Blogging the F.D.A. Panel on Avandia

11:20 a.m. |Other Risks From Actos?

Dr. Elaine Morrato, a panel member and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, asked about worries that Actos might increase the risks of bladder cancer.

Dr. Mary H. Parks of the F.D.A. answered that animal trials had suggested there might be a cancer risk in the bladder. And she said that large trials of Actos did not dismiss that risk. But she said similar drugs in the same class have all suggested that the drugs might have a cancer risk.

11:18 a.m. |Debating Risks

Rebecca Killion, a panel member, asked whether Avandia might still be appropriate for patients with few cardiovascular risks.

Younger patients, for instance, are not nearly as susceptible to heart attacks as older ones. Her question led to a small debate between Dr. Steven Nissen, the Cleveland Clinic cardiologist who has advocated Avandia’s withdrawal, and Dr. Philip Home, who led the Avandia Record trial and has said that his research is funded by GlaxoSmithKline.

Dr. Nissen argued that no diabetic is without risk for cardiovascular disease.

“Not only are diabetics getting younger, but diabetics with coronary disease are getting younger,” Dr. Nissen said. “To say that there’s some diabetic that’s not at risk, is probably not something we can parse.

Dr. Home responded he routinely makes such decisions in his clinical practice. For instance, since both Avandia and Actos increase the risks of fracture, he would not give either drug to patients with osteoporosis, he said. “We would certainly target these drugs to certain groups of people,” Dr. Home said.

11:14 a.m. |Listening for Clues

After a brief debate about whether the questions they will be asked to vote upon are appropriate, the committee’s members have moved into an hour of discussions and questions.

This is the time that we will begin to see how the committee is moving, and these sorts of discussions can sway uncertain panelists.

10:57 a.m. |Deliberations Begin

After only a handful of speakers, the public hearing ended.

Dr. Gerald Dal Pan, director of F.D.A.’s Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology, is now explaining to the committee what the advisers are supposed to do.

His message is a bit like the charge that a judge gives a jury before they consider a case. But the fact that Dr. Dal Pan is making this speech is interesting. Dr. Dal Pan is the leader of a group of review officials who have advocated forcefully for Avandia’s removal from the market. During the meeting, he has been sitting next to Dr. John Jenkins and Dr. Janet Woodcock, two F.D.A. officials who have defended Avandia’s continued sales.

The agency’s internal conflicts have been on stark display during this advisory committee meeting. But Dr. Dal Pan’s calm and even-handed presentation may be intended to signal that agency officials can work well together despite their differences.

Dr. Dal Pan assured the committee that their views are important to the agency.

“A transcript is made of these meetings, and we actually do go back and read them,” Dr. Dal Pan said. “We are very interested in the rationale for your vote.”

10:25 a.m. |Letter From Investigator

Jackie Bosch is reading a letter written by Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University, who is a principal investigator of the Tide trial, the test comparing Avandia with Actos.

Public testimony is generally given directly, but this hearing has been unusual for several reasons.

In his letter, Dr. Yusuf bemoans the discussion in both the media and the medical literature about Avandia’s risks, saying that it has been based on poor science. He argued that only trials like the one he is in the midst of conducting can definitively answer questions about drug safety.

9:45 a.m. |Public Speakers Take the Stage

The public part of the advisory meeting has begun, and like so much about this meeting, it is unusual.

In many of these meetings, the public part of the meeting is made up of a collection of unsophisticated patients and doctors who tell poignant and personal stories about their experiences with a drug. But the first several public speakers for this meeting came with PowerPoint slides and sophisticated arguments about the underlying trials.

Dr. Christopher McCoy, a hospitalist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Minn., and a representative of the National Physicians Alliance, spoke about the effects that financial connections with drug makers can have on interpretations of studies. He was followed by Dr. Hal M. Roseman, who consults for GlaxoSmithKline, and amid a set of slides with pictures of the comedian David Letterman, offered a complicated set of slides defending Avandia’s continued sales.

Then came Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, whose slides emphasized Avandia’s dangers.

Many more speakers are coming.

9:25 a.m. |Drug Maker Under Fire

GlaxoSmithKline’s reputation has been battered throughout this advisory committee hearing, and it took another hit a moment ago.

Dr. William Knowler, a panel member who is chief of diabetes epidemiology at the National institute of Diabetes and Digestives and Kidney Diseases, described a key analysis done by GlaxoSmithKline as “totally incorrect and deceptive.”

Dr. Dean Follman, a mathematician at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, agreed that the company’s analysis was incorrect.

“I don’t know if I would term it as deceptive,” Dr. Follman said. But since the company failed to explain why it conducted its analysis so poorly “I would ignore it, basically,” he said.

8:59 a.m. |Update

The Food and Drug Administration hearing on Avandia, the controversial diabetes drug, is under way. A complex set of votes is expected later today on whether to remove the drug from the market because of the risk for heart attacks.

Dr. Hertzel Gerstein, a professor at McMaster University who is in charge of an ongoing study comparing the safety of Avandia and Actos, started today’s hearing with a passionate defense of ethics of the study, which has been dubbed the “Tide trial.”

Nearly shouting into a microphone, Dr. McMaster said that experts who called the trial unethical on Tuesday were mistaken.

“In the next 20 minutes, I hope to correct the misperceptions that were repeated yesterday and to show you that TIDE is both appropriate and needed,” he said.

One presenter on Tuesday claimed that the TIDE trial is largely being conducted in the Third World because doctors in the United States are not comfortable with putting patients in the trial.

“Contrary to what was stated yesterday, this study is mainly being conducted in the developed Western world,” Dr. Gerstein said.

We’ll be updating this post throughout the hearing with the latest developments

July 14, 2010

Panel to Rule on Safety of Diabetes Drug

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — A federal advisory panel will vote Wednesday on whether Avandia, a controversial diabetes medicine, is safe enough to remain on the market.

The panel heard a raft of conflicting scientific information on Tuesday not only from Avandia’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline, but also from feuding scientists within the Food and Drug Administration. An important issue is whether information from clinical trials conducted by GlaxoSmithKline can be believed. On Tuesday, panel members heard evidence that patients in a crucial trial of Avandia who suffered heart attacks did not have their problems included in the trial’s final tally. And internal company documents made public in recent days show that the company hid from the public crucial information about Avandia’s safety woes.

Some reviewers within the F.D.A. said Tuesday that studies demonstrate conclusively that Avandia is far more dangerous to the heart than a similar medicine, Actos, made by Takeda. But other reviewers said that the trials are far more equivocal and provide little evidence that Avandia is dangerous. Scientists at GlaxoSmithKline argued that Avandia is a safe and important option in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Questions from some panel members on Tuesday hinted that skepticism about GlaxoSmithKline’s trustworthiness is shared by at least some of the advisers. But with most of the scientific presentations completed on Tuesday, panel members are expected to give far greater voice to their own views on Wednesday. A series of complex votes are scheduled for the afternoon.

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