Buying our silence

Buying our silence – that’s what it’s all about when Glaxo opens its cheque book to ‘settle’ litigation. It has nothing to do with putting right a wrong or making sure that patients are not harmed in the future – Glaxo is simply protecting its own interests – while never admitting it did anything wrong.

Glaxo always denies it was in the wrong. “We believe we acted appropriately,” said Glaxo spokesman Mary Ann Rhyne in one case the company settled. “We deny liability. We have taken this action to avoid protracted litigation and the costs associated with that. We haven’t admitted any liability.”

In another case, GlaxoSmithKline once again admitted no wrongdoing as part of another settlement. “We’ve agreed to this settlement to avoid the delay, expense and uncertainty of litigation,” said Mary Anne Rhyne, a company spokeswoman. However, though Glaxo doled out $65 million in this case, it refused to admit guilt. Paragraph 22 of the final Order in that case, dated April 22, 2005 states:

“Neither this Final Order and Judgment, the Settlement Agreement, nor any of its terms or the negotiations or papers related thereto shall constitute evidence or an admission by Defendant, that any acts of wrongdoing have been committed, and they shall not be deemed to create any inference that there is any liability therefore.”

The US government has hit the jackpot with Glaxo. On September 12, 2006, the Huffington Post reported that Glaxo had agreed to pay more than $3 billion to settle charges by the IRS that the company under-reported profits to avoid paying US taxes.

However, here too, in true Glaxo form, the company denied any guilt and said it only paid the $3 billion to settle the case to avoid protracted litigation. That’s $3 billion… but we never did anything wrong!

You can read more about these cases here.

Maybe you see a pattern here – HUGE payouts, but only to avoid protracted litigation.

Yeah, right.

The other common thread in Glaxo’s settlements is the gagging of individuals. The agreements people sign – under subtle but nevertheless very real duress – try to ensure silence.

Typically you will not be free to carry on making public comments about Seroxat or addiction to it. Perhaps you might be forced to take down your website or stop blogging on the subject… perhaps you will not be allowed to talk about withdrawal from the drug in public… basically you’re paid to go away and shut up.

Importantly, you’re NOT paid anything for all the suffering and harm you have experienced – you’re simply paid to go away and shut up. These agreements are all about protecting companies like Glaxo – rather than trying to help injured patients. And then to rub salt into the wound Glaxo asks the court to seal any incriminating documents – it doesn’t work every time though.

What I can’t see is why Glaxo, if they really have nothing to hide, can’t settle with people but NOT gag them – why should a payout from Glaxo be dependent upon our silence… what kind of warped quid pro quo are we talking about here.

This leaves just one question: Alastair Benbow takes money from Glaxo – why can’t he be made to shut up?!


24 Responses to “Buying our silence”

  1. Matthew Holford Says:

    This pattern of denying everything isn’t peculiar to GSK, I’ve noticed. My ex-employers were up to all sorts of stuff, but when I called them on it I was ignored. When I called them on it in a more robust manner, I was fired.

    I think people will do just about anything, if they think that they can get away with it. GSK has hit on a solution to the problem of legal action, which is as you set it out, above. It has stacks of cash, and GSK’s assumption that everybody has a price has been proven correct, time and again, or else it wouldn’t bother with that approach.

    I’m looking forward to the day when I’m offered stacks of cash to shut up and go away, although I suspect that by the time that that day rolls round, I’ll have long since left. If not, I’m going to enjoy studying the gagging order, such that I can circumvent it!


  2. truthman30 Says:

    Gag Orders such as these are a perversion of law…
    I wonder if it would be possible for GSK to gag if they were sued under “corporate manslaughter”..
    Actually i am suprised that the child suicides cases on Seroxat have not been tried under this..
    Maybe , one day ,they will be?…


    Imagine if the following read like this:

    On November 20, 1945, 21 Nazi defendants filed into the dock at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg to stand trial for war crimes. After a trial that lasted almost 12 months the defence lawyers reached a financial agreement with the Palace of Justice.

    A Spokesperson for the 21 Nazi defendants said:

    ‘ “We deny liability. We have taken this action to avoid protracted litigation and the costs associated with that. We haven’t admitted any liability.”

    or even:

    “We’ve agreed to this settlement to avoid the delay, expense and uncertainty of litigation,”

    Moneytalks folks

  4. truthman30 Says:

    Its not just that money talks..
    Its that greed is the bottom line…

  5. truthman30 Says:

    The problem with these gag orders and class actions is that once GSK pay out, gag, and deny any liability , it closes the doors for further litigation. The cases should be tried. The only way the truth will come out is if the cases get to court. But that doesnt happen. Although , I think the fact that they settle this way is a good indication of their admttance of wrongdoing, just not officially.
    If they did nothing wrong then why would they pay out…?
    I dont know how these GSK spokespeople live with themselves… Defending this type of thing, like good little minions of the monster, sprouting their corporate rhetoric , in cases where people have been harmed or killed…

    It truly is beyond belief , and even more difficult to comprehend that there are people out there who are so enslaved to the ideology of their masterful corporate machine, that they would discard their own integrity as human beings…
    It seems they almost become part of the machine…
    They lose their human qualities…
    Very disturbing…

  6. truthman30 Says:

    For a good insight into the litigation process involving Seroxat ( paxil) in the US, check out Peter Breggins “liability report”..

    Makes for very interesting reading…
    But some of it would also make your blood boil…

  7. Matthew Holford Says:

    “I wonder if it would be possible for GSK to gag if they were sued under “corporate manslaughter”..”

    Well, I think this is the issue. Civil trials, where one sues another, deal with private disputes. If the parties settle, then the matter is done and dusted, as far as the state is concerned. The terms of any settlement are thus also a matter for the parties.

    Corporate manslaughter is a criminal matter, and would require the necessary motivation from the establishment, in order to pursue an investigation, and take the prosecution before the criminal courts. This, then, is the issue: a civil case, like Schell, for example, looks as bad as it could, to the likes of you and I, but because the burden of proof is “on the balance of probabilities”, allegations as to GSK’s behaviour are limited to the facts of the case.

    It is only when one goes before the criminal courts, and gets a conviction, that these things become “fact” as far as the Law is concerned, because the standard here is “beyond reasonable doubt”, as you’re probably aware. Thus, despite what happened in Schell, it would still be defamatory to state as fact that Seroxat kills people, GSK hid the facts for years, for whatever reason, regulator and executive colluded in the scam, and everybody is corrupt. Because that wouldn’t be true, before the Law.

    Best regards


  8. Matthew Holford Says:

    “Imagine if the following read like this…”

    Yes, although when one reads about Nazi war criminals, one immediately assumes that they did what they have been charged with, as such, any settlement would look extraordinary, and a craven dereliction of duty, on the part of the prosecutor.

    However, in the general population, companies such as GSK still have the benefit of the opposite assumption: that they are a big, blue-chip company, with a reputation that it simply would not risk with the type of shennanigans detailed in Peter Breggin’s evidence, for example. Moreover, it is regulated by a government-appointed body, and government has responded to concerns by conducting a review, whilst the regulator claims to constantly review SSRI safety. If that is the view, which receives greatest exposure, then, much like the Nazis, this will be the view that is believed.

    I suppose the issue concerns one’s “need to know”, as perceived by one. If one has had a bad experience with a drug, then one’s view will be very different to one who has not. If one uncovers evidence, which demonstrates wrongdoing, it will come as a significant surprise when those not affected continue to support the “blue-chip” version of reality.


  9. truthman30 Says:

    Interesting points Matt…
    But, based on the overwhelming evidence…
    I think it is essential that people do come to their own conclusions about what has been going on with these issues, and people have had no choice but to do so, as the government by and large have turned a blind eye, and their backs…
    If certain companies and certain individuals in positions of power and influence have committed fraud or even “corporate manslaughter”, and the law has done nothing and the structures of sociiety which should have protected them have abandoned them, then the public should not be held accountable for seeking the truth ..
    It has been through the internet, and blogs such as these , and websites which have come before , that the big picture of the Seroxat scandal has emerged…
    This only happened because people took it upon themselves to find out what was really going on… And they had no choice but to..
    Of course Panorama have already done some excellent investigative reporting on Seroxat, and they do deserve massive credit for exposing the scam in the first place, but still there are huge issues of what has actually gone down here and they are still largely unexplored…
    I think we are still at the tip of the iceberg…
    And daunting though that is, it is the reality…
    I think this also goes much much further than some people having a bad exprience on a drug..
    There are aspects about the Seroxat Scandal which are so sinister that they ammount to human rights abuses…
    I don’t use the pharase “corporate manslaughter” lightly here..

  10. Matthew Holford Says:


    The thing that strikes me most is the way that the key players have all put up an almost identical wall of silence, in the face of the complaints, which have rained in. In such circumstances, I think it’s best to keep an open mind, even to look at this as though everything that GSK says about its drug is true.

    If one does this, the counterpropositions to the official claims, which have been made, come thick and fast. Indeed, most of the counterpropositions come from GSK. So, “it’s efficacious and safe”. Right, well, we’ve seen your internal correspondence, and we know that you don’t actually believe that, chaps. “It doesn’t lead to withdrawal”, only to be followed by “OK, 25% of patients are affected by withdrawal symptoms”, and so on.

    I tell you: if you circle around inside GSK’s reality, trying to prove them right, its reality collapses like a house of cards. And as soon as one spots an incongruity, one should advise GSK of this. Point by point rebuttal, if that’s what it takes!

    If one takes this approach, I find it altogether more satisfying than laying blame. GSK is used to people shooting at them from that angle. If one seeks the truth, for truth’s sake, the effect that this has on the supposed “wrongdoer” is extraordinary, although one should avoid saying “aha, got you,” because then the barriers come up again.

    The upshot is that I agree: on the face of it something appears to be very wrong. I write this simply because a lot of people are complaining, and those with an interest are saying that everything’s fine and dandy, whilst apparently trying to undermine any independent research. This does not, in and of itself, indicate that GSK/MHRA/DoH are corrupt.

    Each could be so mired in its tiny reality that it can’t see out, or they could be thick, or incompetent, or it could be that they’re corrupt! I think we’re past the stage when we can give the benefit of the doubt, and argue innocent mistake, anyway!


  11. truthman30 Says:

    Corporate Killing laws are strengthened..

    The draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill will update existing laws on corporate killing.

    It contains a proposal to create a criminal offence that will apply when someone has been killed because bosses ‘grossly failed’ to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees or others.

    This tackles the key problem with the current law, say the Government – the need to show that a single individual at the very top of a company is personally guilty of manslaughter before the company can be prosecuted.

    The new offence will focus responsibility on the working practices of the organisation, as set by senior managers, rather than limiting investigations to questions of individual gross negligence by company bosses.

    Corporate manslaughter is an offence committed by organisations rather than individuals and will therefore carry a penalty of an unlimited fine rather than a custodial sentence.

    Ministers have stressed that no new burdens will be placed on companies that already comply with health and safety legislation.

    So organisations taking a conscientious approach to their current obligations have ‘nothing to fear’, said Mr Clarke.

    He added:

    “Reforming the laws on corporate manslaughter is part of the Government’s wider agenda to modernise the criminal justice system – putting victims at the heart, protecting the public and ensuring that justice is done.”

    Hs anybody thought of Emailing Tony Blair directly about the Seroxat Scandal ?…

    you can email him through this link…

  12. Matthew Holford Says:

    Yes, I must have a read of the Bill. The last time I looked, which admittedly is a few months back, it was nothing more than a bunch of proposals.

    I wonder how fines are going to be assessed? I remember a discussion we had on this, way back when I was reading Criminal Law. One can’t put a company in prison, obviously, only the officers. And if that’s being abandoned, how does one adequately punish a company as big as GSK, should one find it culpable? A year’s profits? Two years? Given that the way one represents one’s accounts are as flexible as anything else, one needs to be careful. Perhaps a percentage of capital might be appropriate, or perhaps a fraction of current market value.

    As to Blair: yes, I’ve tried to ‘mail him. The link failed on the HoP site. However, when I wrote one of my first missives to the GSK shareholders in the HoP, I asked a couple of them to pass the message to Blair.


  13. Robyn Clothier Says:

    Readers may be interested in this from the latest Healthy Skepticism Update:
    Jon Jureidini (HS Chair), Leemon McHenry (consultant to the Baum Hedlund law firm) and Peter Mansfield (HS Director) have been analyzing internal documents from GlaxoSmithKline regarding Study 329 of paroxetine for depressed adolescents. Our analysis has been submitted to a medical journal. Meanwhile the documents and a list of
    all known trials of newer antidepressants for depressed children and adolescents are available at:

  14. Matthew Holford Says:

    Trying to see the evidence in anything other than a bad light is difficult, at times. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that, as suggested, a small clique of people within SKB acted mala fides, and then represented the story to others in contradiction of their true understanding of the efficacy and safety of the drug.

    The idea that all relevant people within GSK knew what was going on and conspired to hoodwink the regulator, relevant government departments, and so on, is a truly unpleasant one.


  15. truthman30 Says:

    A truly unpleasant one it may be…
    But one which is not outside the realms of possibility…

  16. Matthew Holford Says:

    No, it’s not, and we should bear it in mind, as such. However, it looks a whole lot more pleasant than the possibility that GSK knew, the MCA twigged and kept quiet, and everybody else in a position to do something has similarly zipped their lips…


  17. truthman30 Says:

    Yeah, But I suppose, but having being reading this stuff for a long time now, I have come to my own conclusions about what has happened.. Whether they are slightly off the mark or slightly misdirected or whatever is through no fault of my own…
    I am interpreting my views through whatever information is available to me..
    If GSK or the MHRA were to drop their Wall of silence, and offer the truth , I would be open to that, but I doubt very much if that is going to happen…
    The Seroxat Scandal in my opinion, is a truly terrible state of affairs…
    The public should never have to rely on “leaked ” documents , leaked “memos” and BBC investigative reporting in order to gain perspective on things…
    There should be transparency, freedom of information, and above all we should be able to trust the regulators and the drug companies .. unfortunately that trust has been badly damaged and the “silence”just adds weight to the dismay and disappointment…

  18. Matthew Holford Says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. We have GSK’s original position, which boils down to Seroxat being exceptionally valuable, which has been publicly modified in certain respects (admission of the risk of suicide in anybody under the age of 31, withdrawal symptoms, etc). This position is bolstered by a whole bunch of academics, at least some of whom, we’re reliably informed, didn’t write the articles that have their names on, and a bunch of patients, who swear that the drug has at least permitted them to gain some perspective, while they sorted themselves out. We also have the support of the DoH and regulators.

    We also have a counterproposition, which comes from another bunch of academics, and a different bunch of patients, who argue that they’ve experienced some quite horrific side effects. We’re also starting to see some successful legal actions. And then we have all the failed trials. Above all, we have GSK’s own view of its drug.

    Now, when this counterproposition is put to the DoH, the MHRA and GSK we get silence. And thus the status quo is maintained. In the absence of further input from these players, one is left to speculate. Something’s wrong. It must be wrong, because there is a group of people who have assigned to themselves the right to tell a bunch of other people what is true, and have determined not to entertain any alternative positions.

    There is nothing particularly complex about this type of analysis. It’s a standard argumentative approach. It’s called dialectic: one takes two apparently opposed propositions, and rather than attempt to demonstrate the truth of one at the expense of the other, one assumes that neither is true, and by analysing the two one may arrive at the truth. However, for this approach to be successful, the advocates of both propositions must be prepared to engage.

    What does it tell us, when one of the parties refuses to take part in a discussion? Nothing, or everything? Or some position in between the two? Well, as I wrote before, people go silent when their reality has been confounded: they need time to process the new data, in order to understand how to respond. When it comes , the response is usually an attempt to re-establish their position. That is, can they disprove the evidence that one has put before them?

    This is why presenting their own incongruities to them is so valuable: they have to reject something that they have said, in order to proceed, or else somehow try to reconcile two apparently contradictory statements, in order to demonstrate the consistency of their position. Which they choose to reject tells one everything one needs to know about the type of person one is dealing with.

    Best regards


  19. seroxat secrets… Says:

    […] Buying our silence […]

  20. Derek Scott Says:

    I wonder if it would be possible for GSK to gag if they were sued under “corporate manslaughter”

    In reply I have already asked this question via a lawyer and GSK and the reply was no not in the UK. Pity I would have liked to have seen them sued under “corporate manslaughter charges”

  21. Matthew Holford Says:

    Well, one could bring a private prosecution, within the criminal law – such things tend to be frowned upon, though – I guess the police, CPS, etc, don’t like people “stealing their action”, or something. One has to fund such things oneself, of course, which seems a bit of a cheek, when the establishment has demonstrated such an apathetic attitude to concerns raised.


  22. seroxat secrets… Huge Glaxo pay out... « Says:

    […] see a pattern forming here ? Posted in […]

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