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US regulators suggest changes to Avandia, but no ban

Patients are thought to have been previously misled about the side effects of the diabetes drug.

A regulatory advisory panel in the US has suggested extra warnings on the product label, rather than a ban, on GlaxoSmithkline's diabetes pill Avandia.

The panel had been convened by the Food and Drug Administration this week, to rule on a long-standing row over health hazards of the drug. Avandia had provoked widespread concern over its potential to increase patients' risk of heart attacks.

GSK had feared that a ruling against the drug would mean the loss of £425m in annual US sales. It had also been anticipating a surge in lawsuits filed by patients who claim to have been misled about the drug's side-effects.

During the three years over which the case has stretched the sales of the drug halved in the US.

Only 12 of the 33- member strong expert committee voted for the medicine to be withdrawn. The contentious issue saw FDA scientists expressing scepticism of GSK's safety studies on the drug, while the company has also been accused of intimidating scientists studying Avandia's health risks.

The final decision on the matter rests with the FDA leadership, which usually follows its advisory committee.