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Glaxo leads FTSE fallers after US Senate's warning

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2010 | 12:00 AM


SHARES IN GlaxoSmithKline PLC topped the list of fallers on Britain's FTSE 100 index of leading shares Monday after a United States (US) Senate report said the drug maker knew of possible heart attack risks tied to Avandia, its blockbuster diabetes medication, years before such evidence became public.

By mid-afternoon London time, shares in the company were 2.5 per cent lower at £12.05.

On Saturday, Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican, released the report following a two-year investigation and asked the US Food and Drug Administration why it allowed a clinical trial of Avandia to continue even after the agency estimated that the drug caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007.

The agency ordered a warning to be included on Avandia's label in 2007, saying that it might increase the risk of heart attacks, though the data on those risk was inconclusive.

"The problem with big drug companies is running out of patents, and if they hit the buffers, you get this sort of reaction from shareholders," said David Buik, markets analyst at BGC Partners in London.

GlaxoSmithKline rejected the conclusions of the Senate report, arguing that they were based on analyses that "are not consistent with the rigorous scientific evidence supporting the safety of the drug."