BMJ: Avandia supporters had ties to Glaxo

After GlaxoSmithKline's diabetes drug Avandia was linked to heart disease in May 2007, a fierce debate ensued, with much of it played out in scholarly journals. Just who wrote all those articles? That's what the Mayo Clinic wanted to find out.

Now, researchers have analyzed more than 200 articles that appeared after that infamous 2007 analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found a 43 percent increased risk of heart attack associated with the medicine. Of the scientists who authored articles, reviews or commentaries that supported Avandia's safety, 90 percent had financial ties to GSK, the researchers found.

By contrast, of the authors who expressed negative views of the drug, some 75 percent had no financial ties to any manufacturer of a diabetes medicine. Just 6 percent of the positive authors had no financial ties to industry.

The study authors posit that financial conflicts of interest could explain why interpretations of the Avandia data have varied so widely, Bloomberg reports. "We aimed to determine whether financial conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical manufacturers could be fueling this fire," write the researchers in a British Medical Journal article. " From our findings, it appears the answer is yes."

A GSK spokeswoman stressed that the company now has policies to post all information and results from clinical trials on its website and will begin disclosing research payments to investigators and their institutions beginning this year. "It's vital that people have trust in the way we do research and the way it's made public," the spokeswoman tells Bloomberg. "Part of that is sharing data. What we have done is develop policies that will have disclosure and encourage disclosure."

- read the Bloomberg story