Don’t talk to me about ethics and trust. Don’t talk to me about company culture and values.
That’s one hell of a fine for Glaxo – the biggest healthcare fraud settlement in history… but in reality, it’s simply not enough – it goes nowhere near as far as it should.
There should be criminal prosecutions brought, because what we’re talking about here is not just illegal marketing of drugs – not just bribing doctors to prescribe GSK products – what we’re talking about here is dead people.
Patients have died because they were taking drugs that weren’t safe, drugs that weren’t even approved for their treatment.
In the case of Avandia, the drug is so dangerous that it can no longer be prescribed in Europe – it had to be withdrawn from the market because of high levels of heart attack, heart failure and stroke in patients.
It had to be withdrawn from the market because it killed too many people.
It makes you wonder how a drug like Avandia ever got a licence in the first place… how could the doctors running the drug trials have failed to see the dangers?
I think we should remember at this point it was GSK that paid for those very drug trials that painted Avandia in such a positive light. And Paxil. And Wellbutrin.
GSK has also admitted charges that it held back data and made unsupported safety claims over Avandia.
People have died. A fine is not enough.
Here’s the story from the BBC:
The drug giant is to plead guilty to promoting two drugs for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data about a diabetes drug to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The settlement will cover criminal fines as well as civil settlements with the federal and state governments.
The case concerns the drugs Paxil, Wellbutrin and Avandia.
Deputy US Attorney General James Cole told a news conference in Washington DC that the settlement was “unprecedented in both size and scope”.
GSK, one of the world’s largest healthcare and pharmaceuticals companies, admitted to promoting antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses, including treatment of children and adolescents.
The company also conceded charges that it held back data and made unsupported safety claims over its diabetes drug Avandia.
In addition, GSK has been found guilty of paying kickbacks to doctors.
“The sales force bribed physicians to prescribe GSK products using every imaginable form of high-priced entertainment, from Hawaiian vacations [and] paying doctors millions of dollars to go on speaking tours, to tickets to Madonna concerts,” said US attorney Carmin Ortiz.
As part of the settlement, GSK agreed to be monitored by government officials for five years.
GSK said in a statement it would pay the fines through existing cash resources.
Andrew Witty, the firm’s chief executive, said procedures for compliance, marketing and selling had been changed at GSK’s US unit.
“We have learnt from the mistakes that were made,” Mr Witty said. “When necessary, we have removed employees who have engaged in misconduct.”