Former chairman of research and development and board member of GlaxoSmithKline, Tachi Yamada, is joining the corporate board of Agilent Technologies, a California maker of scientific instruments.
In a statement, Agilent President and CEO Bill Sullivan said of Yamada’s appointment “his extensive pharmaceutical industry knowledge coupled with his medical background gives him a unique insight into a number of issues facing Agilent that will serve us well as we continue to grow our life sciences business.”
About a year ago Yamada was pressured by the Senate Finance Committee over a report on GSK’s diabetes drug Avandia and its risks for heart problems. In essence, Yamada was accused of bullying Dr. John Buse, whom had identified what he thought were potential signs of dangerous side effects to Glaxo's diabetes drug, Avandia
This isn't the only controversy that follows Yamada.
Dr. Yamada was one of the top GSK executives deposed in the Donald Schell Paxil homicide/suicide case. (trial exhibits, more depositions and trial transcripts) Here's what Yamada had to say (about drug warning labels) when questioned under oath by Houston attorney Andy Vickery:
Dr. Yamada: ....We also have the pressure to understand that our drugs aren't safe and that every drug — although every drug — every drug has potential complications but the benefits outweigh the risks.
Andy Vickery: And in that context, what is the importance of proper labeling as a means to accommodate these two competing interests? We need to get this drug out there on the one hand to people but the drug might hurt some people. Can that be ameliorated in some degree by proper labeling?
Dr. Yamada: That is the hope. That is the hope. It's not — It's not always been borne out, and so the FDA is rethinking about what they want to do, how they actually control the physician. I mean one of the problems is that — Maybe I'm saying too much here, Chuck. (Note: "Chuck" is GSK's counsel.)
Andy Vickery: I can't ask you what he said yesterday, but I bet one of them was just answer his questions. But I appreciate your helpfulness.
Dr. Yamada: It's like a pack of cigarettes. You see on there Surgeon General's warning.
Andy Vickery: Right.
Dr. Yamada: Nobody pays any attention to it.
Andy Vickery: Right.
And another excerpt from the Yamada deposition:
Andy Vickery: Dr. Yamada, as a physician, clinician, academician who not only practiced medicine but taught other doctors how to practice medicine for many years, would you agree that as a general proposition that if language appears in the warnings section in boldface that it is more likely that doctors will take heed of that information than if it's put back in the postmarketing surveillance section and it's not in boldface?
Dr. Yamada: Well, my experience would be that doctors just don't look at the label, period. Now, it could be because I was in an academic institution and that's what we did. Maybe we felt that we were more up-to-date and therefore we didn't need no label. I don't know, but my experience is that most physicians don't look at the label very carefully. And I'm not certain — I personally am not certain whether it would make a difference whether something was in a black box or in a warning section or in a precaution section, and if you would ask 20 young physicians, I'm not sure they could tell you the difference between those three.
Andy Vickery: Do you know that in the information disseminating process one of the truly important ways that your company communicates both the indications and the side effects of your medications to doctors is through the — I forget what title we were using about the detail men, as I call them, the people that call on doctors?
Dr. Yamada: Yes.
Andy Vickery: That's a very important conduit for information; isn't it?
Dr. Yamada: I believe it is, yes.
Andy Vickery: And do you know that your people are trained, your salespeople that call on doctors are trained to emphasize and reemphasize information that is in the warning section of the labels to doctors for the very reasons that you talk about?
Dr. Yamada: I believe so, but I don't know for a fact.
Andy Vickery: Okay, sir. How are you doing comfort wise?
Dr. Yamada: I'm fine. I'm fine.
Andy Vickery: Any time you want to take a break.
Yamada never explained why, in January of 2001, he testified under oath that a GlaxoSmithKline decision to put proper warning labels on one of its drugs (Paxil) is "never a business decision" when a confidential 1997 GlaxoSmithKline document (exposed via "discovery" by Paxil withdrawal plaintiffs' attorneys) reads:
Discontinuation: why this is an issue '97 Seroxat/Paxil sales to end Sept. already exceed $1 BILLION
Beneath this statement is an image of a big black money bag with a giant white dollar sign embedded in its centre.
Great to see those responsible for the continued dissemination of bad drugs rewarded with high paying executive positions, huh!
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'THE EVIDENCE, HOWEVER, IS CLEAR...THE SEROXAT SCANDAL' By Bob Fiddaman
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