Not many people will remember this, but it seems Glaxo has been under criminal investigation for nearly three years now. It has been alleged that the company withheld Paroxetine paediatric clinical trial data.
Given the length of time the investigation has been ongoing, the MHRA were asked, via the Freedom of Information Act, to comment on what stage the Police enquiries are at. What Police enquiries? came the reply – it’s just an MHRA enquiry by our Enforcement and Intelligence group, there is no Police involvement and “As you will be aware … we are unable to provide information concerning an ongoing criminal investigation, in accordance with exemption 30 of the FOI Act.”
From the outside it looks as though this is another case of the MHRA investigating itself – or perhaps I’ve got that wrong – maybe Glaxo investigating Glaxo would be more accurate? Clearly, given the record of the MHRA, I and many others, are worried that this investigation will simply end in a lick of white paint and a cover up. Will anyone prove to me that there are no conflicts of interest between the Enforcement and Intelligence group and Glaxo? The MHRA won’t.
However even I have to admit there are times when the MHRA helps us to sleep that little bit safer at in our beds: Harminder Johal, hailing from the west Midlands, has pleaded guilty to two Medicines Act offences and has been ordered to pay £7,000 in fines and costs. Johal was found selling creams claiming that they contained ‘spiritual qualities’. In fact they contained prescription-only medicine with corticosteroids, only prescribed under normal circumstances to those with severe eczema and usually prescribed by an expert in that area.
Says Mick Deats, Head of Intelligence and Enforcement, MHRA: “This result sends a clear message to those who are intent on abusing such potent medicines for financial gain. I cannot over-emphasise just how dangerous this kind of activity is. We will continue to clamp down on people who flout the laws under the Medicines Act and pose a threat to public health”.
Now, I’m sure that when it comes to feeling the collar of a gentleman selling ‘spiritual cream’ or the manufacturer of fake Viagra tablets in a small industrial unit off the Harrow Road, the MHRA is second to none… but when it comes to throughly investigating one the largest companies in the world, one that effectively pays your wages and that has a long history of hiding trial data from regulators, the scientific community and the public, well, I have to say that somehow I’m not so sure that Mick Deats and his Enforcement and Intelligence group will come up trumps on this one.
“This result sends a clear message to those who are intent on abusing such potent medicines for financial gain. I cannot over-emphasise just how dangerous this kind of activity is. We will continue to clamp down on people who flout the laws under the Medicines Act and pose a threat to public health”.
So what about Glaxo, then Mick?