GSK Fights Back

GSK Fights Back

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) whose under fire over their diabetes drug Avandia and the just released Senate report condemning the drug as too dangerous, has taken the unusual step of fight fire with fire. As Diabetic Investor noted with our alert issued yesterday the company has already posted a strong defense of their actions and Avandia on their corporate web site  But in what we believe is a first, the company has also posted a strong response on their blog

While Diabetic Investor cannot be certain we believe this is the first time a major company has embraced social media to defend their position. While it is not uncommon for companies to embrace social media as another method for reaching prospective and existing customers, GSK has taken the use of social media to a new level.

As we noted yesterday Diabetic Investor is surprised that GSK has decided to do battle with the FDA. While we agree that this whole controversy has not been handled well from the beginning, and no one including GSK is exempt from blame here, it seems strange to take on the agency that determines whether the products you make actually ever make it to market.

Taking a quick look at the GSK pipeline the company has several compounds in late stage development that soon will take the next step and be submitted to the FDA for approval. Even if these compounds have compelling data Diabetic Investor can’t imagine the FDA letting them sail through the approval process. The bottom line here is the FDA not only makes the rules, they can also and have been known too; change the rules while the game is being played.

GSK also has another problem to contend with as no one is rushing to defend Avandia or the company. GSK would be in a much stronger position if there were independent members of the research and diabetes community defending Avandia. This is exactly what happened when there were reports that tried to link Lantus to cancer. Thankfully for Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) and the millions of patients taking Lantus, the diabetes community defended Lantus and largely exposed these reports for what they were; flawed research.

The fact is there is enough evidence against Avandia to raise concerns and equally problematic there are other drugs in the exact same category (ACTOS) that do not carry these concerns. It is not as if Avandia is the only choice a physician has and the physician will do no harm by switching a patient to Actos or other available therapy options.

As painful as it may be for GSK they should take their punishment with the knowledge that the company has made millions from Avandia when times were good. As we all know good times don’t last forever and eventually the gravy train comes to an end. GSK had hoped the end would have come when Avandia went off patent but this isn’t going to happen.

Legal implications aside, GSK would be better off to pull Avandia from the market citing that patient safety is more important than profits.  As Diabetic Investor pointed out yesterday sales of Avandia are already dropping like a stone in water and the Senate report will likely put the final nail in the Avandia coffin. The company may disagree with the findings of the Senate Report and the meta-analysis that started this whole controversy but they should realize something that the people of Chicago have known for years; you can’t fight city hall.   

GSK would be wise to consider the words of Winston Churchill who said; “Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The Statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.”