Sales of the asthma drug Advair have been booming since the drug was launched in 2001 and it generates more than $4 billion a year in revenue annually but it still remains subject to widespread speculation that it may be harmful and is widely over-prescribed.
According to a recent report from The Milwaukee (Wisc.) Journal-Sentinel, sales representatives at GlaxoSmithKiline have been told since the day that Advair was launched more than a decade ago that the drug would likely make them a lot of money. Since then , millions of have been prescribed the long-acting beta-antagonist drug as a means of treating their asthma. But the news source’s investigation has revealed that not only is Advair among the most over-prescribed drugs, it may also be among the most dangerous.
Based on its findings at AdverseEvents Inc., Advair has been linked to more than 1,900 asthma deaths from 2004 until 2011. This number, the source suggests, is probably grossly under-estimating the actual number of deaths since reporting to this non-profit, independent tracking system is voluntary. Together as a class of drugs, treatments similar to Advair have been linked to as many as 14,000 asthma deaths since 1994. Since it was launched on the U.S. market in 2001, Advair has consistently been a top-seller and is still heavily marketed.
Much of the research used by treating doctors who diagnose a patient with asthma and then look for guidance on their next course with a patient was likely conducted by scientists and authors receiving compensation from GlaxoSmithKline, which attempted to influence studies to promote the benefits of Advair. So most of the research a doctor will find will point them to prescribing a drug like Advair, and probably that drug specifically, despite that evidence being likely influenced by the drug manufacturer’s money.
The Journal-Sentinel research also found that prescriptions of Advair are being written for patients who should definitely not receiving it, namely children and African-Americans, who have shown in other recent studies to have not responded well to treatments with this drug. And the Food and Drug Administration is not doing much to stop the wanton promotion and prescription of Advair and the Journal-Sentinel even suggests the agency is “side-stepping” its own panel of doctors who recommended that children, mostly, should not receive Advair, yet they continue to be written prescriptions for the drug.
Two years ago the FDA ordered two large-scale studies of Advair and its potentially lethal side effects. That request was met with some friction from inside the agency as some researchers believed calling for the study would put tens of thousands of study participants at risk of death. At least 47,000 people will have participated in those studies by the time of their expected completion date, some time in 2017.
Of course, the FDA has backed its record on Advair and a spokesperson told the Journal-Sentinel that it updated safety labels on the drug to indicate better prescribing practices. GlaxoSmithKline denied to the source that it ever has influenced research on any drug, especially Advair, in an attempt to hide its dangerous side effects in lieu of bigger profits.