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Recently, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota uncovered some interesting facts about experts supporting the diabetes drug, Avandia, after a May 2007 study showed that Avandia significantly increased the risk of heart attacks by those who used the drug. The Mayo Clinic combed through some 200 expert studies and commentaries on the drug after the May 2007 study and discovered that 94 percent of experts who had positive opinions of the drug had ties to drug companies and more than half of these defenders had financial ties, as well.

Dr. Victor Montori of the Mayo Clinic, whose study appears in the British Medical Journal said, "It was almost three to four times more likely that somebody who had a relationship with a pharmaceutical company had a favorable opinion about the medication." In contrast, "if you were to look at the folks with an unfavorable opinion, 28 percent had a relationship with a pharmaceutical company," Montori said. The Mayo Clinic team checked the disclosures in the papers about Avandia and the author’s other papers and discovered that "about a quarter of those did not report that relationship [with a drug company] in the paper that was about Avandia." In their study, the team’s findings "underscore the need for further changes in disclosure procedures in order for the scientific record to be trusted."

Mary Anne Rhyne, a Glaxo spokeswoman, defended the drug, saying, "Many of the articles reviewed were opinion pieces–editorials, commentaries or letters. It is important to note that the authors’ conclusions do not impugn the validity of scientific data." When conducting the study, Montori looked at both Avandia and competiting diabetes drug, Actos, papers, but focused more heavily on Avandia. However, he discovered that in both cases, “there is a large overlap in the investigators who write opinions about these drugs that are funded by both companies."

Furthermore, Montori said it is not clear if the financial ties that experts have to a drug company influences their opinion or if the companies look for experts who already have a positive opinion of the drug in which they are asked to study. However, Montori does see that experts’ ties to drug companies does impact the scientific opinion of the safety of drugs in which they have been asked to study.

Sheller, P.C. is currently handling Avandia cases and would like to speak with anyone who has suffered a heart attack or stroke as a result of using this medication.

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