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Citizens Commission on Human Rights Award Recipient (Twice)
Humanist, humorist

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose for GSK

I found getting my head around today's Bloomberg article, Glaxo Paid Doctors $15 Million Before Promised End to Fees, pretty difficult.

Admittedly, when it comes to figures or counting backwards I'm no Stephen Hawkin - so, I had to sit with this for a while to try and fathom out just what Glaxo were playing at here.

In 2013, Glaxo chief, Andrew Witty, announced that it was implementing a new global marketing strategy to transform the way it sells and markets drugs to both doctors and patients.

GSK, in 2013, said...

  • They would be stopping direct payments to physicians who speak about the Company’s drugs, or diseases treated by its drugs, to other doctors and healthcare professionals who write or influence prescriptions and ending payments for doctors to attend medical conferences.
The new strategy, according to Andrew Witty, would be implemented globally by 2016.

Back-slaps all around for Witty. What a thoroughly nice chap for showing some ethics. So you would think, right?

What the company statement failed to mention was that this new initiative was actually required as part of a corporate integrity agreement Glaxo made with the US Justice Department.

So, what have Glaxo done to implement this 'new strategy' then?

Well, according to Bloomberg, it would seem that it's been business as usual for Glaxo.

Bloomberg write...

GlaxoSmithKline Plc paid U.S. doctors about $15 million in 2014 to promote and learn about its products, showing little change from the previous year... 
The total includes consulting and speaking fees, as well as meals and travel for thousands of doctors. The largest consulting payment $195,000 went to Joseph Goldstein, a professor of biomedical research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, (above) according to Glaxo’s figures.

Bloomberg kindly throw a link up to GSK's website, - another website to show how transparent they supposedly are, another attempt at showing the new GSK.

Bizarrely, the Bloomberg link to Glaxo's page returns a 404 Error code. So, what ever was available, isn't now.

So, I guess we are just left with the Bloomberg article.

In 2014, Thomas Yunger, a pulmonologist in Dayton, Ohio, (above) was the highest-paid speaker for Glaxo, with $75,450 in speaking fees and $10,853 for consulting, travel, food and beverage. Yunger couldn’t be reached for comment, and Goldstein declined to comment.

Now, I guess technically Glaxo haven't gone back on their promise, they did say that this practice of not paying doctors would be implemented globally by 2016 so, I guess, it remains to be seen if they keep to their word. It does, however, seem a kind of half-arsed way to go about evolving down that ethical route, don't you think?

Make claims you are going to stop being naughty but continue being naughty until the official deadline day of naughtiness comes into view.

Mommy and Johnny at the Supermarket.

Mom: Johnny, put that ice cream back, I don't have enough money to pay for it.

Johnny: But I want it and I'm going to take it.

Mom: If you take it you will be grounded for a week!

**Johnny takes ice cream, looks at his mom and bites into it**

Mom: Right, you are grounded for one week.

**Johnny then steals more ice cream**

Hey, who can blame Johnny? When he gets back from the supermarket he's going to be grounded for a week so why not take more - the punishment will remain the same.

Isn't this exactly what GlaxoSmithKline are currently doing?

Can you imagine, for one minute, if you or I were ordered by a Judge to stop our thieving or face the consequences and, in response to his request we told him that we would stop in three years time?

Would you or I be allowed this luxury?

So, it would appear that Andrew Witty's statement to shareholders in December 2013 was nothing more than a token gesture. Yes, we've been naughty and we will stop that naughtiness soon... but before we do let's just have one more stab at naughtiness.

Naughty, naughty Glaxo.

Take a look at the figures again for 2014. $15 million to promote and learn about its products. including consulting and speaking fees, meals and travel for thousands of doctors. This coming after a company statement in late 2013 stating that they were implementing changes!

Will Johnny refrain from stealing ice cream in 2016? 

I doubt it.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Bob Fiddaman.

**Thanks to The Truthman for the tip.**

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