GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE:GSK) Avandia is back in the spotlight and Steven Nissen isn't even to blame. Instead it's a 342-page report by the Senate Finance Committee that's painting the diabetes drug in a not-so-great light.

According to The New York Times, some Food and Drug Administration officials want the drug removed from the market. Even though a 2007 FDA advisory committee voted 22-1 that the drug should be on the market, the FDA plans to revisit the topic with another advisory committee, which is expected to meet this summer.

While it may be weighing on the stock today, whether the FDA pulls Avandia from the market seems like a minor concern. Sure the drug is still a worldwide blockbuster, but sales are down considerably from its highs.





Sales of Avandia containing products (in millions)




Fraction of overall revenue




Source: Company press releases.

If the FDA pulls Avandia from the market it would be a minor boon to other oral diabetes drugs like Takeda's Actos and Merck's (NYSE:MRK) Januvia and to a lesser extent injectable drugs like Amylin Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ:AMLN) and Eli Lilly's (NYSE:LLY) Byetta and Novo Nordisk's (NYSE:NVO) Victoza. But even if Avandia was pulled off the market worldwide, it wouldn't be a crippling blow for Glaxo because Avandia has become such a minor portion of the drugmaker's revenue.

The report's bigger blow for Glaxo is the claim that the company knew for years that there were heart problems with Avandia and tried to figure out how to cover it up. That dripping sound you heard over the weekend was the drool of trial lawyers hitting the floor. Of course plaintiffs would have to prove that in court, and Glaxo claims that there aren't even any problems with Avandia to cover up in the first place.

Still, investors should now weigh the risk of lawsuits into their valuation. After all, the $4.85 billion Merck used to settle its Vioxx cases is money that it doesn't have to stock its pipeline with externally developed compounds. Glaxo might be seeing a drain on its own coffers in the not too distant future.

Novo Nordisk is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection and Glaxo is a U.K.-based company. Investing internationally doesn't have to be scary and it can certainly be profitable. Click here to grab a 30-day trial subscription to the newsletter where you'll see all of our current picks for a global economy.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline and has a disclosure policy.