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In an effort to settle many of the lawsuits GlaxoSmithKline, PLC is facing, it has agreed to pay more than $460 million for the now-controversial Avandia drug that was initially approved for diabetics. It was discovered that it can cause heart attacks and strokes in patients who take it. As a result, there were nearly 10,000 lawsuits making their way through the American court system, says founder A. Harrison Barnes. This settlement, if it’s approved, equates to around $46,000 per suit.

The company is attempting to settle these suits without acknowledging it knew the drug had a risk of heart attacks and other risks. If accepted, this will eliminate the first suit that’s scheduled to begin in October 2010 in Pennsylvania. Some analysts are saying this is the best news for the drug maker, but some attorneys are balking at the seemingly low-number figure offered. Legal analysts agree that it could set a trend for future suits, although with so many drug-related lawsuits currently awaiting solutions, it’s not likely it will set a new standard.

The founder says even as the suits are being lined up, the FDA could still potentially approve its use if it can determine the benefits outweigh the risks. This is proving to be a controversial stand for the FDA to make as some say it appears biased toward the UK drug maker. While the FDA attempts to run damage control, it stands firm that the ability to control blood sugar levels could mean it’s worth the risk, at least to those who are not at risk for cardiovascular disease. Neither the FDA nor Glaxo, which also happens to be the largest in the UK, are commenting.

A decision, both on the FDA’s final determination and the court’s ultimate decision on whether to approve the settlement, is expected sometime this year, says the founder. A. Harrison Barnes also presents another potential problem for the drug maker. Even if the FDA does approve the drug for use in the U.S., some physicians may balk at prescribing it since it could potentially leave them liable and alone against any future suits, since it’s likely if the settlement is approved, it will virtually eliminate all possibilities of future lawsuits. With so many dynamics involved, no one will really know for sure until it unfolds.

For now, lawyers around the world and certainly with the U.S. and the UK are closely monitoring the goings on.

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