GlaxoSmithKline guilty of fraud and other illegal practices, but no-one’s going to jail

GlaxoSmithKline is the world’s fourth largest drug company, and in 2011 made $9 billion in profit. But this week saw this drug giant was found guilty of a range of misdemeanours by the US Department of Justice. Here’s some of them:

  1. Illegal promotion of the anti-depressant paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat) in individuals under the age of 18, even though the drug was not licensed in individuals of this age.
  2. The creation of “misleading” articles in medical journals claiming that paroxetine was effective in the under-18s, even though the cited study failed to find benefit.
  3. The hiding of relevant trials that had negative findings.
  4. The illegal promotion of the drug bupropion for ‘off label’ uses (uses for which it is usually unproven and unlicensed) such as weight loss, sexual dysfunction, addiction and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  5. The creation of “sham advisory boards” (supposedly expert boards that advice on management of medical condition that are populated my hand-picked ‘experts’ who are known to be sympathetic to a drug and may be being paid to sit on these boards).
  6. Provision of travel inducements (bribes) to promote unauthorised use of the drug.
  7. Failure to report data regarding the safety of its diabetes drug rosiglitazone to the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the US.
  8. The promotion of off-label use of the asthma drug fluticasone.
  9. The promotion of off-label use of the anti-convulsant drug lamotrigine.
  10. The promotion of off-label use of the anti-nausea drug ondansetron.
  11. The false reporting of drug prices that meant GSK under-payed rebates under what is known as the Medicaid Drug Rebate Programme.

GSK has been fined $3 billion, and has signed a ‘corporate integrity agreement’ and will be monitored by the US Department of Justice for the next five years. Apparently, “company executives may be held personally accountable and forced to give back bonuses and long term incentives if they or their subordinates engage in significant misconduct.

Why are all the penalties here merely financial? Executives and their underlings have engaged in proven illegal practices, some of which have undoubtedly harmed individuals who have put trust and faith in their doctors and GSK products, and all that happens is that the company gets to pay for a ‘get out of jail free’ card. GSK can now move on with just a financial slap on the wrist. It seems to me that some GSK executives were not properly punished for being the criminals they are.

12 Responses to GlaxoSmithKline guilty of fraud and other illegal practices, but no-one’s going to jail

  1. John Evans 6 July 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    Hi Dr Briffa
    If people would like to read a really thorough wide ranging analysis of what goes on in the medications biz in the States, please see “Anatomy of an Epidemic: magic bullets, psychiatric drugs and the astonishing rise of mental illness in America” (2010) by investigative journalist Robert Whitaker
    Astonishing is absolutely the right word. Maybe I’m naive, and I was profoundly shocked by what he reported. I wondered, working as he does in such a litigious country, how come he was still a free man? Simple – a team of psychiatrists went through the whole book with the proverbial tooth-comb, trying to find errors. And were disappointed. Because everything he wrote was true

  2. p[eter Killingback 6 July 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    Seems Bigpharm, Bigagrochem and Bigbanks have a lot in common. Too many individuals in them who are either dishonest or are pressured to be dishonest, for the benefit of big bonuses. And the real problem here is that they dont go to jail when they should.

  3. Graham 6 July 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    Is anyone surprised that the big business of “big business and big government” isn’t getting in trouble by the big government of “big business and big government”?

  4. Cybertiger 6 July 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    This massive fine for criminal misdemeanour was announced last November …

    … and then the CEO received a knighthood in the New Year’s honours. Eh?

  5. Cybertiger 7 July 2012 at 1:14 am #

    Anyone ever wondered what James Murdoch was really doing on the board of GlaxoSmithCrime? Up to no good? You bet!

  6. Peter Dingle 7 July 2012 at 1:35 am #

    Recently in Australia a major illegal drug dealer went to prison for 22 years. It is a pity we have two sets of rules. Tens to hundreds of thousands of people die from legal drugs each year and no person is held accountable. It is time executives in the company were held personally responsible for the decision that they make.

  7. Alison 7 July 2012 at 2:02 am #

    I’m actually rather horrified that seroxat is still being prescribed at all let alone for off label uses. I took it for about two weeks when I was 18/19. I was prescribed it because I was experiencing suicidal feelings without actually wanting to die hence I made it to A&E before I chucked myself off a bridge. After about two weeks on it I took myself off it because I was feeling so dissociative that I would have easily killed myself.

  8. Marie 9 July 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    I have also read Robert Whitakers book. it`s very interesting and eye opening and so is another book by him – Mad in America.

    I would also recommend Peter R. Breggins books about psychotropic drugs, for instance – Your Drug May Be Your Problem, Toxic Psychiatry, The Antidepressant Fact Book and The Ritalin Fact Book.

  9. Christine 9 July 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    Are there no consequences for the physicians who accepted the bribes or wrote the ‘off-label’ prescriptions?

  10. Wanda Mariano 11 July 2012 at 5:30 am #

    This is bad. Especially now that they are in the forefront to takeover Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. They can do some dishonest things with Belviq. And with that big of a market, that’s devastating to a lot of people.

    I wrote an article about it if you like more references.

  11. cancerclasses 11 July 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Why are all the penalties here merely financial? Professional courtesy, psychopaths are running all the major human institutions, government, law, economics, banking, business, medicine, health & nutrition, etc. Holding people accountable for the destruction they cause would have a chilling effect on capitalism, profits, social standing & lifestyle.

  12. tal 24 July 2012 at 12:25 am #

    The most significant point is that GSK pleaded guilty to misdemeanour rather than felony charges. Read the charges yourselves:

    If found guilty of a felony, GSK would have been prohibited from selling their wares to the US Medicare and Medicaid programs, a major market loss. I view the misdemeanour charge as evidence of collusion with the so-called Justice Department rather than a victory for the people.

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