Rita Rubin On the Nissen Trial

  • by: |
  • 06/07/2007
Here's Rita Rubin about the chain of events leading up to the black box warning about congestive heart failure and PPARs at the FDA:

"Grassley, whose office released the letter Wednesday, asked von Eschenbach to respond to allegations that Johann-Liang had been reprimanded for agreeing with her staff's recommendation that Avandia needed a black-box warning about congestive heart failure and stronger warnings about macular edema, a serious eye condition."

Let's be clear about who Johann-Liang is and her history. She is the same person who was selectively leaking stuff to Grassley on Ketek and recommended pulling the drug altogether. Her actions and dalliance with Grassley's staff have led delays and increased costs in antibiotic research. Her demand for a black box was in advance of both the Glaxo meta analysis, the DREAM results and the RECORD study. And both Takeda and Actos had previously sent out letters to prescribers warning about the elevated risks of their drugs to patients with a history of heart failure.

"The FDA, which had received data from Glaxo last August suggesting a 30% increased risk of heart attacks in Avandia users, did not alert patients and doctors about that possibility until Steven Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, reported a similar finding, posted May 21 on The New England Journal of Medicine's website."

The facts are that the FDA had been working on this issue well in advance of the NIssen article -- as Nissen himself admitted in his testimony. Nissen's article was timed to pre-empt a pending FDA decision.

Rita again: " Glaxo should have begun enrolling high-risk diabetes patients in a large, long-term study when Avandia was approved in 1999. By now, Nissen said, the results would be in."

In fact, Glaxo did begin enrolling "high-risk diabetes patients in large long term study when Avandia was approved in 1999." It was called the DREAM study. It looked at heart problems as a secondary endpoint and was expected to have it's data blended with other studies looking at heart safety since the sample size alone was considered to be underpowered to determine RARE risks.

That's how safety signals are validated today in the absence of new IT and genomic tools. We could do it faster, better, more personalized and predictive.

Which is why Andy Von E kept on calling for more resources, not more authority to improve post market surveillance.

That's the rest of the story.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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