UPDATED: Sanofi's Lantus Cancer Scare Triggered by Doc Backed by Amylin and Lilly

Last Updated Jul 1, 2009 12:22 PM EDT

The editors of a medical journal backed off from a study they published suggesting Sanofi-Aventis' diabetes drug Lantus was linked to cancer. At the same time, it emerged that the doctor who warned of an "earthquake" on Lantus has done work endorsed or sponsored by Amylin and Eli Lilly, marketers of competing diabetes drug Byetta.
  • UPDATE: Amylin and Lilly defended the doctor, saying his relationships are publicly disclosed (see full statement below).
The publication of the study last week caused Sanofi stock to plunge (pictured above), it recovered much of its ground today. Amylin's stock (pictured below), by contrast, rose like a rocket on the news that scared patients may transfer from Lantus to Byetta.

Edwin Gale, editor in chief of Diabetologia, told Bloomberg:

This is not at all the earthquake he seemed to be talking about ... I suspect it was unconnected with our paper.
The "he" Gale refers to is Dr. Ralph DeFronzo (pictured) of the University of Texas Health Science Center. He told a June 11 conference call sponsored by Credit Suisse that an "earthquake" was coming on Lantus. That statement coincided with Diabetologia's publication of a study suggesting more research ought to be done on a Lantus-cancer link. Gale says the study is not a smoking gun, and the FDA agreed, urging patients to stay on Lantus.

DeFronzo, however, is an Amylin/Lilly man, as Bloomberg briefly noted at the time. He was quoted in Lilly's press statements. And he chaired an Amylin-sponsored symposium at the recent ADA meeting in New Orleans. Unsurprisingly, DeFronzo was not available for comment today, Bloomberg reported:

"We are in the process of reviewing the facts of this particular situation," Mary DeLay, the chief communications officer for the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, wrote in an e-mail. "The University has a comprehensive policy regarding conflict of interest and employees are required to abide by these policies."
Lilly and Amylin defended DeFronzo in a statement to BNET:
Ralph DeFronzo, MD, is an internationally recognized researcher and clinical investigator in the diabetes field. As such, he has publicly disclosed relationships with many pharmaceutical companies in this field, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche and Takeda, as well as Amylin and Lilly. Like all physicians who work with Amylin and Lilly on clinical trials and continuing medical education programs, to ensure transparency, our arrangement with Dr. DeFronzo is guided by established policies within our companies, as well as industry standards.