"Dr. Kirchmer Calling"

The SE Texas Record Aug. 30, 2008, 4:29am

U.S. pharmaceutical companies are already among the most regulated in the world. Do they really need the freewheeling scrutiny of Southeast Texas' plaintiff's bar?

The question is worth considering this week, as Beaumont's biggest blame-manufacturer embarks upon its latest lawsuit gambit, this time against drug maker GlaxoSmithKline.

Provost Umphrey plaintiff's attorney Chris Kirchmer has filed 16 lawsuits against the company, claiming its diabetes drug is doing harm to the patients taking it. He charges it "significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular injury," such as a heart attack or stroke.

That's the opinion of Kirchmer, who has a law degree but boasts no background in in medicine or pharmaceutical research.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug a decade ago. It says that like all drugs, Avandia poses some risks. But it's a safe and a sound option for the 20 million Americans stricken with diabetes; life without it for them would be far worse.

Critics say the lives of a great many diabetes sufferers may already be worse due to the efforts of trial lawyers like Kirchmer. They're the diabetics who've been scared into abandoning their drug therapy by relentless plaintiff-recruitment advertising campaigns. These misleading ads peg Avandia as harmful, and urge those taking it to call and consider suing.

Kirchmer is hanging his case on a study he says proves as much, a study which has been weighed and rejected by U.S. drug regulators, and contradicted by more comprehensive ones.

Our nation's top experts rely on the most recent study of Avandia, funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. It determined the drug didn't cause strokes or heart attacks.

"Our extensive analysis included a specific review to determine whether there was any link between (Avandia) and the increased deaths," said Dr. William Friedewald, a Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Columbia University. "We found no link."

But Kirchmer sees a link. Others see dollar signs in his eyes.

In the name of public health, should we trust an expert medical researcher or a Jefferson County plaintiff's lawyer?

That one's easy.

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