African-Americans Have Been Target Audience of Cardiac Risk Avandia


The Type 2 diabetes drug, Avandia, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, has been under fire for presenting serious cardiovascular risks in those taking the drug. After analysis of dozens of trials, it has been concluded that Avandia increases the risk of heart attack by 43% and cardiac-related death by 64%. GlaxoSmithKline is facing additional problems with these recent reports due to the fact that the company was warned seven years ago that Avandia showed a trend toward “cardiovascular deaths and severe adverse events,” yet the manufacturer failed to adequately warn prescribing doctors and consumers about the potential risks of the drug.

Now, GlaxoSmithKline is facing additional scrutiny by the African-American community because the company has long placed a marketing focus on African-Americans–much more so than any other maker of diabetes drugs. Because Type 2 diabetes is a disease twice as likely to affect African-Americans as Caucasians in the United States, GlaxoSmithKline thought it prudent marketing strategy to hire a celebrity African-American as the Avandia spokesperson. Della Reese, legendary jazz singer and actress, who most recently starred in the television series “Touched By An Angel,” has Type 2 diabetes and signed on with GlaxoSmithKline in 2004; Ms. Reese remained Avandia’s spokeswoman until the end of 2006.

But now that Avandia has been shown to cause such serious adverse events, Glaxo’s advertising strategy could certainly work against the drug giant. Avandia has been on the market for eight years and has been the world’s best-selling diabetes drug at approximately $3 billion a year. Glaxo’s marketing strategy has won the company praise in the advertising industry and from African-American doctors who state Glaxo put a friendly face on a drug for a disease that often goes untreated in the African-American community.

Although the makers of Avandia have allegedly known about the serious cardiovascular events associated with the drug for almost seven years, they have continued to sell the drug and target the African-American community in their advertising campaign. Lawyers for Glaxo sad they are already getting calls from Avandia users and predict future lawsuits that could run into the tens of billions of dollars. The Chief Executive of GlaxoSmithKline, Jean-Pierre Garnier, has said it is much too early to tell if these calls will lead to the company being sued, and Garnier is confident that the safety of Avandia will be vindicated.