|GSK's addictive antidepressant, Seroxat|
One would have thought that British pharmaceutical giant would still be licking their wounds after the record fine of $3billion they dished out a couple of months ago.
No sooner had that particular scab healed Glaxo find themselves [once again] in hot water.
And it's Seroxat that rears its ugly head [once again]
This time Glaxo haven't been accused of pushing it on kids via ghostwritten articles or Madonna tickets for doctors... they've been accused of not allowing other companies to get in on their act.
How did they do this?
When Seroxat first hit Britain it did so for only a limited time. When pharmaceutical companies bring a drug to market they have the sole rights to that drug until their patent expires. Then, and only then, can other pharmaceutical companies come along and use the compound [paroxetine]. Pharmaceutical companies don't like this so are always devising ways to extend their patent. A clinical trial that tests the drug in kids will give them that extension and increase profits.
So, Glaxo's patent for Seroxat was coming to an end. Three other pharmaceutical companies were waiting in the wings to produce a generic version of Seroxat, a version that would be sold at a much cheaper price and therefore hitting Seroxat [manufactured solely by GSK] sales.
So here's what Glaxo did [ahem allegedly]
Glaxo made “substantial payments” to Alpharma, Generics UK and Norton Healthcare to stop them releasing version of its paroxetine. This would have meant that Glaxo would have been able to profit from the sale of Seroxat and, at the same time, would have meant that their shareholders and investors would have been kept sweet.
Who accuses them of this?
Well, it's not an activist blogger, it's The Office of Fair Trading [OFT] whose job is to make sure that consumers have as much choice as possible across all the different sectors of the marketplace.
In a statement the OFT "alleges GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) concluded agreements which infringed competition law with each of Alpharma Limited (Alpharma), Generics (UK) Limited (GUK) and Norton Healthcare Limited (IVAX) ('the generic companies'), over the supply of paroxetine in the UK. The OFT also alleges GSK's conduct amounted to an abuse of a dominant position in the same market."
The statement adds:
"The OFT's provisional view is that these agreements included substantial payments from GSK to the generic companies in return for their commitment to delay their plans to supply paroxetine independently."
GSK making substantial payments around Seroxat, surely not.
The allegations in this case concern so called 'pay for delay' agreements, where a manufacturer of branded pharmaceuticals, in this instance GlaxoSmithKline, makes payments to a generic company in return for that generic company agreeing to delay its independent entry into the market for a product, in this instance paroxetine.
Glaxo have responded in usual style. A statement on the GSK website stresses that "GSK supports fair competition and we very strongly believe that we acted within the law"
No mention or excuse that this was just part of an era.
Here's how the BBC broke the news.
Jensen Button and the McLaren team must be wondering if the sponsorship deal with Glaxo was such a great idea after all. [Back story]
Some of the major GSK shareholders today include Dodge & Cox Stock, Vanguard PRIMECAP Inv and the Royal Bank Of Canada.