By: Patrick Totty
Santa Clara County, the largest county in Northern California (nearly 1.9 million people), has filed a federal lawsuit against pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, alleging that Glaxo knowingly sold its type 2 diabetes drug Avandia for several years despite indications the drug causes heart attacks and strokes.
Avandia, which began selling in 1999 and has been a major source of revenue for Pennsylvania-based Glaxo, has been under fire in recent years as evidence accumulated that the drug has been a major factor in thousands of deaths from cardiovascular events. (This Diabetes Health article discusses recent news surrounding Avandia in more detail.)
The county’s lawsuit is the first time that a government entity has entered court against Glaxo. Santa Clara, which spent $2 million on Avandia from 1999 through 2007 for indigent patients, is claiming that Glaxo’s silence about harmful side effects forced the county to have to spend more money, unknowingly, to treat the heart problems Avandia caused.
The county says that while it has been planning the lawsuit for some time, a recent U.S. Senate subcommittee report criticizing both Glaxo and the Food and Drug Administration for their handling of Avandia’s problems was the final spur to action.
Santa Clara’s suit seeks compensation not only for itself but also for California diabetes patients and healthcare providers who have used or prescribed Avandia.
Avandia is Glaxo’s trade name for rosiglitazone, a member of the family of anti-diabetes drugs known as thiazolidinediones. TZDs are drugs that increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
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