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Avandia's fight for survival

Bottles of Avandia diabetes medication

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: A couple weeks ago, we told you about a diabetes drug that could be dangerous. A study found Avandia might cause heart problems. Today, Congress holds a hearing on Avandia, and drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline plans to fight like hell. Helen Palmer reports from our Health Desk at WGBH.

Helen Palmer: Avandia is Glaxo's second-biggest earner and a blockbuster.

Donny Wong: In 2006, the drug generated over $2.5 billion in sales.

Decision Resources analyst Donny Wong:

Wong: And the drug has another five years of patent life to it, so that's a lot of potential earnings that Glaxo is trying to protect.

So the company's aggressively defending the drug with full page and a half advertisements in papers nationwide to reassure patients.

But company shares hit a two-year low yesterday. Wong say that's an overreaction — uncontrolled diabetes is far more dangerous than what seems to be only a slight increase in heart risk with Avandia.

The specialists aren't as concerned as the primary care physicians and for diabetes, primary care physicians do tend to be the primary prescribers.

Just after the New England Journal article was published, the share of new prescriptions for Avandia dropped from 10 percent of all diabetes medications to zero.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: A couple weeks ago, we told you about a diabetes drug that could be dangerous. A study found Avandia might cause heart problems. Today, Congress holds a hearing on Avandia, and drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline plans to fight like hell. Helen Palmer reports from our Health Desk at WGBH.

Helen Palmer: Avandia is Glaxo's second-biggest earner and a blockbuster.

Donny Wong: In 2006, the drug generated over $2.5 billion in sales.

Decision Resources analyst Donny Wong:

Wong: And the drug has another five years of patent life to it, so that's a lot of potential earnings that Glaxo is trying to protect.

So the company's aggressively defending the drug with full page and a half advertisements in papers nationwide to reassure patients.

But company shares hit a two-year low yesterday. Wong say that's an overreaction — uncontrolled diabetes is far more dangerous than what seems to be only a slight increase in heart risk with Avandia.

The specialists aren't as concerned as the primary care physicians and for diabetes, primary care physicians do tend to be the primary prescribers.

Just after the New England Journal article was published, the share of new prescriptions for Avandia dropped from 10 percent of all diabetes medications to zero.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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