Town impacted by drug company's negative press?

February 22, 2010 9:18:11 PM PST
A scathing US Senate report has hit one of the Triangle's largest private employers. GlaxoSmithKline is accused of hiding information on the dangers of it's' once very popular diabetes drug Avandia.

According to the New York Times, reports show that if every diabetic now taking Avandia were given Actos, a similar pill, instead - about 500 heart attacks and 300 cases of heart failure would be averted each month.

For more, you can find the N.Y. Times story here.

To read GSK's response to the article, click here.

As questions continue to swarm around the drug, there is concern about the impact the drug maker has on the Triangle.

GSK is a huge contributor to the Town of Zebulon.

"They just mean a great deal to us in the services they support," Mayor of Zebulon Robert Matheny said.

Employment at Zebulon's GSK plant is down from 1,200 at its peak a few years ago to about 700 people now. Glaxo also has about 4,900 employees in Research Triangle Park.

But the Zebulon plant is the town's largest private employer and the GSK property tax bill makes up almost one-third of Zebulon's entire annual municipal budget.

"It would be devastating to try to recoup those tax dollars," Matheny said.

The mayor says GSK contributed to the cost of building a five-county stadium and gave to the town's parks department.

"They just celebrated 25 years at that plant and they gave us a $25,000 donation," Matheny said.

GSK makes a number of drugs at the plant and the mayor says Avandia is packaged there.

And despite the troubles of the diabetes drug, he has not heard of any fallout, at least not yet.

"If they were going to do a major lay-off, we would know, maybe not now," he said. "But they would let us know."

The company stresses that the FDA still thinks Avandia is safe if used as directed on the label.

However, Avandia sales have crashed in the last couple of years since debate erupted over its effects on the heart.

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