Zantac Lawsuit

Researching drug company and regulatory malfeasance for over 16 years
Humanist, humorist

Friday, July 25, 2014

Are GSK Breaking Bad?

Recent revelations arising from a whistleblower sent to GSK and the Reuters news service has alleged that GSK were embroiled in a smuggling scheme to ship the drug component pseudoephedrine to Iran from Syria via Iraq. 

GlaxoSmithKline manufacture and market Sudafed, a drug used to treat Bronchospasm, Nasal congestion, Rhinitis and Upper respiratory tract infections. The composition of Sudafed is pseudoephedrine, the same compound GSK have been accused of smuggling, or scheming to smuggle, to Iran.

What is a "Sudafed Smurf"?

According to Bob Cooke, a retired special agent-in-charge, California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, organized crime members are part of a network that go from store to store buying PSE (pseudoephedrine). In some cases, they are addicts. They shred the pills/tablets from the blister packs and sell them in bulk to a wholesaler that will furnish them to a methamphetamine lab operator. [1]

Last year a letter appeared on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website. The letter, written by Zahra Alam Mehrjerdi, was titled, "Crystal in Iran: methamphetamine or heroin kerack". [2]

He writes...

Using opiates has a long history in Iran . Opium and its pharmacological and psychotropic effects were known for several thousand years among Iranians especially for managing general medical conditions such as pain, colic problems, headaches, and implementing anesthesia but methamphetamine (MA) is a new psychostimulant drug and its abuse has recently surged in popularity especially among young individuals in Iran. Methamphetamine is available in different forms such as pure crystalline hydrochloride salt. The main routes of methamphetamine administration include smoking, sniffing, injection and ingestion.

If the allegations against GSK are true then are we to believe that they merely schemed to ship Sudafed to Iran to treat people with nasal congestion problems or were their motives more sinister?

According to a 2013 study by the United Nations [3], the first report of the manufacture of methamphetamine in Tehran, Iran's capital, was in 2008 when authorities seized four mom-and-pop labs operating in the city. By 2012, Iran was the world's fourth biggest importer of pseudoephedrine, the main precursor chemical used in crystal meth production. More than half a million Iranians have used the drug at least once.

Although the recent GSK/Syria allegations may only seem mild in comparison to the allegations they are currently facing in China, if one digs deeper into the alleged smuggling scheme then one may just find that GSK were illegally exporting... or had plans to illegally export a compound used in crystal meth production.

If true then GlaxoSmithKline have stooped to a new level.

Back in 2010 GSK's Cidra plant in Puerto Rico came under the spotlight. Part of the complaint filed alleged that employees of GlaxoSmithKline diverted reject drug product from the Cidra plant to black markets in Latin America. This, however, was never proven... or it was, more than likely dropped as part of the settlement agreement made with whistleblower Cheryl Eckard [4]

Now, I'm a blogger and researcher. I don't have the money or means at my disposal to look into the pseudoephedrine smuggling allegations.

Plenty of media outlets out there that do though.

Food for thought, huh?

Some good resources for journalists

From the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction -  The drug market in Iran

From  the National Center for Biotechnology Information website - Methamphetamin abuse a new concern in Iran

From  the National Center for Biotechnology Information website - Emergence of a methamphetamine crisis in Iran

Finally, if allegations are proven to be true what does the future hold for GlaxoSmithKline's partnership with the Save The Children charity organisation?

There is a critical drug abuse crisis among Iranian high school students, street children and generally Iranian youth and adolescents. [5]

If allegations are proven then it could be argued that GSK have been part of the drug problem in Iran rather than the solution.

Glaxo's alleged violations in Syria is just one country where they are currently under investigation for similar incidents, others include Bahrain, China, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Poland, Qatar, UK, United Arab Emirates, USA.

Bob Fiddaman.

[1] What is a "Sudafed Smurf"?
[2] Crystal in Iran: methamphetamine or heroin kerack
[3] United Nations World Drug Report 2013
[4] GlaxoSmithKline - Filthy, Disgusting, Abhorrent...and that's Just the Plant! Read the Charges!
[5] Substance abuse among Iranian high school students

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