Some of the headlines these past 24 hours or so regarding Glaxo's moral values:
Glaxo Agrees to Pay $3 Billion in Fraud Settlement
New York Times
GlaxoSmithKline settles healthcare fraud case for $3 billion
GlaxoSmithKline Reaches Plea Agreement Over Drug Labeling
So, what's the hoo-ha all about?
Well, Glaxo, the company that likes to think it runs on great ethics, have just paid a record-breaking $3 billion for their part in illegally...yes, illegally, promoting their products to patient populations that their products could potentially harm, kill. Products such as their antidepressants, Paxil and Wellbutrin.
Paxil is known as Seroxat in the UK and Aropax in Australia and New Zealand.
Wellbutrin, on the other hand, is also used as an anti-smoking drug. Glaxo basically rebadged it to Zyban.
Part of this huge settlement is also because GlaxoSmithKline failed to report important safety data regarding their diabetes drug Avandia. We're not talking about damaged boxes here, we're talking about Avandia causing heart problems in those who took it.
How ethical, huh?
So, how did Glaxo promote Paxil and Wellbutrin illegally then?
Well, they'd get their reps to do the dirty work. Reps would visit doctor's and give them kickbacks, a kickback that would range from lunch being bought for the doc and his staff to lavish gifts and expensive restaurants. Not content with food bribes, the reps would then offer money to high prescribing doctors and psychiatrists to 'give a talk' to other doctors that would see them promoting the use of Paxil and Wellbutrin "off-label" to children.
You see, Glaxo didn't have to tell millions of TV viewers that their medications were safe and indicated for certain populations with their advertisements - they simply got doctors and child psychiatrists to do it for them. Why? Well, to advertise these facts would have been deemed as fraud. So with a little bit of jiggery-pokery they advertised by proxy to those that really mattered - the prescribers.
What astounds me, as a former consumer of Paxil, is the statement made by Glaxo chief Andrew Witty:
“Whilst these originate in a different era for the company, they cannot and will not be ignored,” he said in the statement. “On behalf of GSK, I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learnt from the mistakes that were made.” [source]
So, Glaxo have learned from their mistakes hey Andrew?
Last year Andrew Witty turned down the chance to speak with Janice Simmons. Janice runs the Seroxat User Group and she wished to talk to Witty about the withdrawal problems people were facing when trying to taper from Glaxo's drug.
This end, I have requested a similar type of meeting with GlaxoSmithKline New Zealand. They told me to "Talk to my doctor"
"On behalf of GSK, I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learnt from the mistakes that were made.”
Ho hum Sir Andrew.
How many deaths resulted in Glaxo's illegal promotion of Paxil and Wellbutrin? How many deaths resulted in Glaxo's failure to warn of the safety issues with Avandia?
One small piddling apology that, in essence, blamed another era of GSK, is simply not good enough. It's an insult to those who have lost their lives, an insult to those that have been left to carry the loss around on their shoulders.
Andrew Witty was knighted at the head of this year. Her Majesty rewarded him - for what exactly?
What kind of a message was this sending out? Hey, Glaxo have been bad but Andy is getting things back on track.
Yup, sure he is.
You know, money doesn't make the problem disappear overnight. The $3 billion had been earmarked at the start of the year. This is the sort of blasé attitude we have come to expect from GlaxoSmithKline, it's akin to a shrug of the shoulders and a smug smile, it's akin to a mass murderer or serial killer apologising just before he is administered a lethal injection.
GlaxoSmithKline have been caught time and time again with their trousers down. Out of court settlements are all well and good but they just pave the way for this industry to continue on their path of destruction. It allows them to wipe the blood from their hands, using the bank notes of any settlement to clean their conscience.
It's abhorrent... more than that...it's pure evil at work.
GlaxoSmithKline's Andrew Witty may want to think about changing the company tagline, "GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer."
Evidence of this huge settlement would suggest that the tagline is wrong. It would also suggest that GlaxoSmithKline are in disarray and if it were a single entity then it would have been diagnosed, using DSM criteria, as being narcissistic, delusional and, dare I say it, psychopathic.
The UK Seroxat litigation, where consumers of Seroxat, had difficulty withdrawing from Glaxo's product, still continues. Glaxo deny any wrong doing.
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
Documents and Resources from the July 2, 2012 GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Press Conference