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Pharmaceutical Giant Sets Aside Billions to Cover Avandia Liability Cases, Drug Still Remains Available

With origins dating back to 1715, Glaxo Smith Kline has been an international pharmaceutical and consumer products leader for centuries. Producing medicines such as Flonase, Imitrex and Advair, as well as consumer products like Aquafresh, Tums and Geritol, Glaxo Smith Kline aims to "improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer." However, the British pharmaceutical giant has faced its share of controversy, particularly involving the anti-diabetes drug Avandia.

History of Avandia, Problems Associated

Avandia, generic name rosiglitazone, is an anti-diabetes drug that works as an insulin sensitizer. The drug acts to reduce glucose as well as insulin blood levels. While it might even offer anti-inflammatory affects, it has been associated with heart disease, stroke and even bone fractures. In 2006, sales of this diabetes medication topped $2.2 billion. However, FDA warnings and concerns from members of the medical community have contributed to a marked decline in prescription sales. (While many within the FDA recommended removing the drug from the market, conflicting opinions prompted the agency to simply restrict its use.)

In September 2010, after years of international backlash, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially put restrictions on the sale and marketing of Avandia.

Avandia's road to decline began in Europe and has been paved with countless reports of heart attacks and heart failure. Also, studies associated the use of Avandia with a 43 percent increased risk for heart attacks.

Avandia Back in the Spotlight in 2011

On January 18, 2011, Glaxo Smith Kline was back in the international spotlight regarding its once billion-plus-dollar baby.

Last month, Glaxo Smith Kline made the decision to set aside $3.4 billion to cover federal investigation costs and product liability cases related to this formerly top-selling Type 2 diabetes medicine.

As for the FDA, whose mission is to protect the public health by assuring the safety of human drugs, the Type 2 diabetes medication remains available for use. However, while prior patients can continue to receive the medication, new patients must meet strict guidelines before a new prescription can be approved.