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CNBC's Huckman: Glaxo CEO, British Journal Dispute Avandia Study

Mike Huckman

The CEO of GlaxoSmithKline and a prominent British medical journal are criticizing a recent study that said Glaxo's widely prescribed diabetes drug Avandia is linked to a greater risk of heart attack and possibly death.

The study, published earlier this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, said results of dozens of studies revealed a 43% higher risk of heart attack for those who took Avandia. Though experts said the overall risk was small and cautioned people not to stop taking the drug, the news sent Glaxo shares down sharply.

GSK Fights Back

Glaxo CEO J.P. Garnier told the Wall Street Journal that he thinks people are over-reacting to the study. Garnier acknowledged that Avandia sales could take a hit but expressed confidence they'll rebound when the full safety data have been analyzed.

His comments came as the British medical journal The Lancet shot down the study in its online edition. The Lancet said "it would be premature to over-interpret" the results until there is a clinical trial specifically designed to look at the heart safety of Avandia.

The Lancet concludes that "to avoid unnecessary panic among patients...a calmer and more considered approach to the safety of Avandia is needed. Alarmist headlines and confident declarations help nobody."

More than six million people worldwide have taken Avandia since it came on the market eight years ago.