In July 2012, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay $3 billion in criminal and civil fines following allegations the company did not give the FDA important safety information about Avandia, including information concerning the risk of heart problems linked to the drug (the settlement also covered allegations concerning the off-label marketing of Paxil and Wellbutrin).
Of the $3 billion, $1 billion was paid for criminal fines and forfeitures and $2 billion was to settle state and federal allegations. Despite agreeing to the settlement, GlaxoSmithKline did not admit to any wrongdoing in its actions.
According to Time (7/5/12), GlaxoSmithKline had information from its own trials that indicated Avandia was linked to an increased risk of heart attack, but that data was never reported. It was not until Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist, published his study—based on information from GlaxoSmithKline trials—in the New England Journal of Medicine that the increased risk of heart problems linked to Avandia became public.
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In October 2012, GlaxoSmithKline announced it would make more of its drug research available in an attempt to increase transparency. The move will include releasing information about experimental drugs. The company said it will have a panel of experts review requests for information sent by researchers and if approved, data will be made available.
Drug companies run trials on their drugs and gather a great deal of research, but most of that data is never made public, or is made public in a way that highlights positive results and downplays negative results.