Painkillers? Headache for GlaxoSmithKline
According to The Independent newspaper, Glaxo has been fined $3 billion for the marketing of unapproved drugs, among which were antidepressant Paxil, which Glaxo recommended for children despite its only having been approved for patients older than 18, and Wellbutrin, which was marketed for conditions including weight loss, sexual dysfunction, substance addictions and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, although it had only been cleared for depression.
The company has additionally admitted bribing doctors with expensive holidays, and publishing misleading journal articles to increase sales.
Labour MP Paul Flynn last night said that Glaxo should also be punished in the UK, where it has allegedly engaged in the same mis-selling.
Commenting in The Independent, columnist Andreas Whittam Smith, supported that view. He also observed similarities between the recent Barclays scandal and the behaviour of GSK, suggesting that ‘it is the culture of contemporary business that is the problem’.
Against that onslaught, the drugs sector attempted to defend itself. Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry told the BBC that the culture of GSK has ‘dramatically changed’ since the time of the mis-sellings, which date back more than a decade ago, and that the industry now has ‘the highest standards’ of marketing practices and transparency.
And GSK itself released a statement saying that since its current chief executive, Andrew Witty, took the top job four years ago, the company ‘has made significant changes at all levels ... to ensure we act with integrity ... these matters do not reflect the company that we are today’.