Two U.S. pharmacy benefit managers said on Thursday they had dropped GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s (GSK.L: Quote, Profile, Research) diabetes drug Avandia from their national formularies due to safety concerns. 

The moves by Prime Therapeutics and HealthTrans mark the latest example of U.S. healthcare providers deciding to limit access to the drug, following an earlier decision by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to severely restrict use.

Such actions, particularly if followed by others, may further undermine sales of the once-popular medicine, which have been hit hard recently by a report linking it to heart attacks.

Prime and HealthTrans said in separate statements they had made their decisions after a thorough analysis of the clinical literature examining the safety and efficacy of Avandia.

"Prime takes drug safety warnings very seriously and our primary concern is the safety of our members," said Craig Mattson, senior director of drug technology assessment and formulary development.

Britain-based Glaxo, Europe’s biggest drugmaker, said it was surprised and disappointed.

"It limits options for treatment and could be detrimental for patients. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has said the data remains inconclusive and therefore to limit patients’ options in this is disappointing," a spokeswoman said.

Concerns about the safety of Avandia were triggered in May by a U.S. analysis linking it to a 43 percent higher risk of heart attack. Avandia was Glaxo’s second-biggest drug in 2006, with worldwide revenue of 1.6 billion pounds ($3.2 billion), but sales have plunged since May, with revenue in the United States down 48 percent in the third quarter from the year-ago period.



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