I don't suppose for one minute that the likes of Andrew Witty (GlaxoSmithKline) would ever take advice from a 51 year-old blogger from Birmingham - to be honest I don't care if he takes it - I'm offering this for free, it's not just for Witty, it's for other pharmaceutical company CEO's who, for whatever reason, think that problems raised can easily be swept under the carpet.
I've been writing this blog for almost ten years now, the research that goes into many of the blog posts I write can be, at times, very time consuming, none more so when it comes to GlaxoSmithKline who, for one reason or another, always seem to be grabbing the headlines in the international press. If they aren't paying out settlements for fraud, they are being accused of fraud - it's a never-ending trail of cancerous cells that just can't be obliterated.
The latest in Glaxo's long history of popping in and out of court rooms is the alleged claim that Seroxat causes severe withdrawal problems - surely not?
One only has to enter the search terms 'Seroxat + withdrawal+addiction' into Google to find out how Glaxo, who monitor what is said about their products, actually do nothing when faced with a barrage of criticism from patients (nae consumers) - ie; they don't address a problem when it arises, they ignore it because they know to engage with patients can be detrimental to the business, ergo can damage sales.
That's where they are going wrong.
Glaxo have had ten years to sort out the problem British patients have been facing with their (once) best-selling antidepressant Seroxat - truth is, they have done nothing about the reported adverse reactions or rather they, just like the British drug regulator, the MHRA, shrugged their shoulders at them. What's a couple of hundred people suffering on a product compared to those who say nothing, anyway?
There's the old 'ignore them and they will go away' factor that comes into play here too. The MHRA and GlaxoSmithKline take this approach, again, this is where they go wrong.
Do you think I would have dedicated almost ten years of my life to researching and writing about pharmaceutical companies and medicine regulators if they had opened their doors to me and shown me how I was wrong and they were right? Of course to do so would mean they would have to summon the evidence that I was wrong - they haven't and they can't.
This isn't me being obstinate or, as the MHRA like to call me, vexatious. This is plain and simple - they refuse to engage with me and people like me because we are question-askers, we ask the right questions and we are not guided by lawyers or editors who tell us that we can't ask this or that.
It's about transparency and I've yet to see any transparency from GlaxoSmithKline or from any other pharmaceutical company come to that.
Now, all that is about to change. News early last month that the UK Seroxat litigation can proceed to trial must have come as a blow to GlaxoSmithKline because those very same questions that they have been avoiding will be asked in an open court, complete with a public gallery. Glaxo, via their lawyers, had previously asked the Judge to halt the trial, citing various reasons. The Honorable Mr Justice Foskett denied them this (Full 31 page ruling here)
Documents will be, for the first time, aired to the British public. All and sundry (including health care professionals) will be able to read about the severity of Seroxat withdrawal. Those same people will learn that, for years, Glaxo denied this even though they knew about it. (See Seroxat - Project 1059 Laden With Withdrawal Problems)
It's vindication for those who have suffered severe withdrawal effects of Seroxat, worse still for those that still are. How many of these people have had to try and tell their husbands or wives that they just don't know why they are suffering these crazy symptoms? How many of those that have suffered have endured the opinions of their health care professionals telling them, "It's the illness and not the drug"? How many have had to explain to their children why they are suffering electric zap sensations and that their brains feel like they are frying? Perhaps those who have suffered have had to explain to their kids why 'mommy and daddy' can no longer live together or why they can't have the Christmas presents they asked for because the crazy withdrawal from the medicine keeps them in bed or doubled up in the fetal position for hours on end, "That's the reason why I lost my job, son." Maybe they've had to apologise to their children for losing their temper on them (aggression being yet another side-effect of withdrawing from Seroxat) - If only Glaxo would have been truthful, huh?
GlaxoSmithKline, as I said, have had almost ten years to hold up their hands and admit that they got it wrong - they chose not too because they thought the problem would go away. Back in 2011 Witty was approached and asked if he would meet the Seroxat Users Group to discuss the very same thing they now find themselves defending in court - the Seroxat withdrawal issue - he declined (See GSK's Andrew Witty in Patient Aftercare Snub)
Truth is, bloggers tend to get the bit between their teeth because they sense a great injustice has been done - then, as they plod along, year after year, they find that this is not just an individual problem, there are more people out there suffering, not just the horrific withdrawals either - suicide, self-harming, birth defects are just three of the many reported adverse events associated with Seroxat.
In the early 2000's Glaxo settled out of court with over 3,500 American consumers who claimed Seroxat had caused serious withdrawal problems. They did so with confidentiality agreements, also known as "gagging orders". Pharmaceutical companies do this to suppress the truth, it's also what litigation is all about - it keeps those documents (previously unseen) away from the public, press and healthcare professionals.
It very much looks like those documents may just see the light of day in the UK as 105 consumers of Seroxat head to court later this year. I, for one, can't wait to finally see that I have been correct all along and that Glaxo have not only being keeping the secrets of Seroxat away from me but from others too, including my doctor and your doctor.
I'm echoing here what a fellow blogger has wrote over at Seroxat Secrets. He pretty much hits the nail on the head with, "...And all those once-secret documents and the information they hold will be available the world over for future claimants to use. I think a whole new raft of claims will be kick-started in the USA alone. I wonder what GSK’s share price will look like after all this? And how institutional investors will view a company that breaks the law and lies & cheats its way to profit?"
Of course it could go either way, not, as I suspect, on evidence provided though. Glaxo's representative lawyers, Addleshaw Goddard LLP, will have already tactically planned how they wish to defend these allegations be it by dragging out the case for as long as they can in the hope that the claimants will have their funding dry up. Sadly, for Addleshaw Goddard that is, this isn't an option. Funding is in place and, according to The Honorable Mr Justice Foskett, assurances have been given that the claimants have more funding should the need arise. A tactic of big corporations is to drag out cases for as long as possible, it's a great tactic because it means eventually the small man will have to back down. All the time the fat-cat lawyers are getting paid by those they represent, a win-win situation. It appears the latest judgment by The Honorable Mr Justice Foskett will not allow this to happen. Round One, it appears, to the claimants.
Then, of course, Addleshaw would have been going through precedents to see if they can get the case thrown out because a ruling made by Judge X in the year XXXX. That's their job, to defend the indefensible...by any means.
Glaxo defence lawyers may or may not throw a curve-ball, they may plead with the Judge that the documents presented in court are sensitive therefore should not be made public - it appears as though it's a gamble they are prepared to take which means correspondence between themselves and the MHRA will be "outed" as they say. If they are going to go down then why not drag the limp-wristed medicines regulator with them, huh?
It's been almost 10 years in the making.
Eat your heart out John Grisham.
Bring it on.
Claimants are represented by Jacqueline A. Perry QC, Niazi Fetto and Timothy Killen (instructed by Fortitude Law)
Defendants are represented by Malcolm Sheehan QC and Andrew Kinnier (instructed by Addleshaw Goddard LLP)