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Friday, October 12, 2012

Glaxo's Murky Transparency Claim



Glaxo head, Andrew Witty, is in the news - this time he's bigging-up his company for being transparent.

Many of the mainstream press are carrying the story, "All Hail Sir Andrew". Critics are viewing this by asking their own questions, one such critic being Mickey Nardo, who, by his own admission, is one boring old man with time on his hands.

Mickey, a retired psychiatrist, raises some good points in a post here, he writes:

I don’t want to join the voices that find something wrong not matter what changes are made. So long as pharmaceutical manufacturers remain private business enterprises, we can expect the to act like other businesses in a capitalistic society. But at a time like this when GSK is making a change in policy towards something that needs fixing as badly as this does, I think it behooves us to go over it with a fine tooth comb to make sure it conforms to the needed change rather than represents another attempt at deceit. With GSK, we’ve earned the right to use that word [deceit] freely. I’ve already mentioned the issue of "panel of experts" as a potential conduit for deceit. But there’s something else.




This announcement by Glaxo comes on the heels of a $3billion settlement with the Department of Justice [DOJ]. Glaxo pleaded guilty to a whole host of violations regarding their prescription drugs. Huge payments to doctor's to prescribe more Paxil to kids...when it wasn't indicated for kids - Dinners [Dine and Dash] for doctor's to, well, persuade other doctor's to prescribe more of Glaxo's wares to populations that were not meant to be prescribed these wares - Huge payments made to thought leaders [Key opinion leaders] to promote the use of Glaxo's wares - but hey, this was perfectly legal because Glaxo disguised these payments as 'preceptorships'.

To further boost the Glaxo coffers, reps would invite doctor's and their family members to concerts, hey, what red blooded male could refuse front row tickets to see Madonna clad in erotic outfits?

Any good-will gesture by GlaxoSmithKline, in this instance their call for more transparency of clinical trial results, is taken, by me at least, with a pinch of salt, it's a bit like a sugar-coated dog turd.

What's striking here is that Witty is promising to be a good boy, in doing so he is promising that his company are going to lead the way by opening its doors so we [the public] can see how open and honest they are.

A cover ourselves in garlands exercise that is, in essence, merely using an air freshener to mask the stench.

Are we expected to believe that this is a scolded entity that is repenting - an analogy could be the schoolyard bully threatened with expulsion and then being good... for a short period before slipping back into his ways.

Hey, we all make mistakes and we are all entitled to forgiveness. To admit our wrong-doings takes courage, to be sorry and mean it can be accepted as long as that apology isn't preceeded by an excuse, in Witty's case it was blaming Glaxo's violations on an era - an era, as I've mentioned in the past, that he was part of.

So how has Glaxo's CEO come out of this unscathed?

Well, there's a school of thought going around that the DOJ struck a deal with Glaxo and the $3 billion settlement was just a snip of what the original fines for crimes was estimated at.

It's all speculation of course and needs further investigation but something just doesn't sit right with me.

At first glance one feels the Department of Justice did a thorough job on British pharmaceutical giants, GlaxoSmithKline. Okay, not one person is behind bars and that sticks in the throat considering what Glaxo agreed to plead guilty to but on the surface back slaps all around for the DOJ... it's when one begins to scratch that surface, that sugar-coating, one finds more questions that need answering.

A large part of the fines, both civil and criminal for Glaxo's drug Buproprion Hcl [aka Zyban and Wellbutrin], were due to the allegations made by whistleblower Greg Thorpe. Thorpe had alleged that GSK was actively telling physicians that if any patient needed Zyban paid for, the physician should merely write a prescription for its twin, Wellbutrin. This peaked in about 1997-1998 under the tenure of the then VP Manager, Andrew Witty.


The case against GSK was lodged and was sealed whilst the US government decided to take it on. All seems above board but cases like this one are normally sealed from the public for 60 days, why was this case sealed for almost 10 years before it saw the light of day?

10 years is a long time in sales, particularly when you are pushing and selling poor quality products that not only harm but kill people.

Why wasn't this case sealed for just 60 days? Was it sealed for 10 years so a settlement could be reached and top executives at GlaxoSmithKline, including Andrew Witty, could fly under the radar when the proverbial crap hit the fan?

Bob Ingram, and Belinda Reed Shannon are two names that also may have slipped under the radar. What were their roles at Glaxo during the deception and fraud that Witty claimed was just part of an era?

Even more bizarre is the fact that this case had been kept sealed for 10 years during which time Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, became involved. Here's where things start to get confusing and one could shout 'conspiracy' if they so wished but if you follow the trail you start to make sense of things a little better.

You see Holder's involvement in this case, some would say, stinks of something acrid, particularly when you join the dots and learn that he was once a defence attorney for Covington Burling... the very same law firm that represented Glaxo in the recent whistleblower action.

You confused?

What role did the US Attorney General Eric Holder play in all of this? It's a fair enough question, given his background. No accusations here, just questions. I'll leave US politics to those who understand the mechanics of it all.

Author John Grisham, a particular favorite of mine, writes fictional novels about law firms and justice departments [Finley and Figg being amongst my heroes] - He'd have a whole series of novels if he followed the scent here - all purely fictional of course.

Far be it for me to speculate about such matters - I'm just a blogger who dislikes GlaxoSmithKline because any good-will shown by them is usually either forced or motive driven.

You may remember Eliot Spitzer, he sued Glaxo in 2004 for not disclosing negative data that linked Paxil to suicidal thoughts in children. Part of the settlement was for Glaxo to post all the results of its clinical trials on their website.

How did they announce this?

Well, just like Witty is doing today, his predecessor, JP Garnier, announced to the public that Glaxo were going to be the first pharmaceutical company to open it's doors, to be transparent. There was no mention by Garnier that he and his company had been forced by Spitzer to open their doors.

Garnier's successor, Andrew Witty and his recent announcement about his company becoming more transparent is, in itself, transparent in as much that I, for one, can see right through it.







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