Seroxat comics… back by popular demand – but what’s happened to Pharma Giles?

So farewell then Pharma Giles… does anone know what has happened to the excellent (and oh so funny) Pharma Giles blog?

Was Giles paid off?  Was he threatened?  Why no explanation?

Maybe the answer lies over at Pharma Gossip?

Anyway, as it seems that Big Pharma doesn’t like being made fun of, here are the Seroxat comics once again!

Although the wonderous ego that is JP Garnier has left Glaxo now, I for one will never forget the caring, sensitive man who watched as Glaxo’s share fell by 40% during his leadership. And what about the MHRA investigation that this year found Glaxo had withheld evidence that the controversial drug, Seroxat, increased the likelihood of suicide among teenagers?

Way to go, JP…

Comic 1

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Comic 2

investigate_1.jpginvestigate_2.jpginvestigate_3.jpginvestigate_4.jpg

Comic 3

buying_our_silence_1.jpgbuying_our_silence_2.jpgbuying_our_silence_3.jpgbuying_our_silence_4.jpg

I’m not sure which one I like best – it’s maybe a bit unfair to pick on poor Alastair Benbow quite so much because Breckenridge of the MHRA was just as useless when he was interviewed on Panorama.

OK – I’m sorry, I’ve had a chance to reconsider that last remark – I take it back. Pick on Benbow as much as you like, he deserves it!

You’ll remember that Benbow is the man, who, when asked on television by pharmacology expert Dr Andrew Herxheimer about why GSK had given no warning about the severe reactions from Seroxat despite knowing about it for 5 years… simply replied “Seroxat has provided countless benefits to many people and enabled them to do more, live longer and feel better… and I think that speaks for itself…”

That reply certainly does speak for itself – Glaxo’s corporate mission statement is “… enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.” In fact, you can download GSK’s corporate brochure here – it’s entitled “Do more, feel better, live longer”.

Good to know we can rely on Dr Alastair Benbow to seriously address patient concerns about one of Glaxo’s drugs without even bothering to consider the direct question that had been asked.

Watch Benbow in action here and marvel at the way he continually avoids questions.

Please remember Alastair – it’s just a little bit of fun!

GSK Lawyers target Seroxat campaigner Bob Fiddaman – see the video they wanted banned!

Well, then… isn’t the internet a wonderful thing.

The video that Glaxo thought they’d had taken down can still be seen thanks to the magic of the internet!

You can read a full description of the contents of the video here

… but perhaps you just want to go and watch it at Furious Seasons: Glaxo Goes After British Blogger’s Video.

Or maybe you prefer to watch it on YouTube

Here’s what Phil Dawdy at Furious Seasons has to say on the matter:

I learned yesterday that attorneys representing GlaxoSmithKline in the UK had sent a letter to Bob Fiddaman, who writes the Seroxat Sufferers blog. Seroxat is Paxil’s brand name in the UK. As a result of the letter, Fiddy felt compelled to remove a video he created and posted to his website in February. It’s not clear to me what specific legal action the lawyers threatened.

I linked to the video when it was originally posted in February since I felt it got at some of the issues that had just been aired in the British and American press concerning accusations that GSK had hidden suicidality data connected with the use of Paxil. The person making that accusation was none other than Harvard clinical psychiatry professor Joseph Glenmullen who had reviewed clinical trials data in connection with a California lawsuit. Fiddy’s video presented statements made by Alistair Benbow, a GSK UK official and medical doctor, concerning the drug’s suicidality profile and contrasted them with statements in the British press about Seroxat’s suicidality profile as well as interspersing all of that with information about select patients who had experienced some of the drug’s rotten side effects. There was even background music.

Fiddy, in essence, posed the question of whether Benbow was a liar.

The whole thing seemed innocent enough since Fiddy was working with known facts and seemed to be presenting them in a reasonable fashion. But GSK’s attorneys, apparently writing to Fiddy on behalf of Benbow, objected to the fact that Fiddy had employed GSK’s logo in his video. What’s more, the video was posted to YouTube and in the comments section someone asked Fiddy a question and Fiddy compared Benbow with Hitler, as I understand it. The attorneys apparently complained to Fiddy that Benbow was feeling harassed as a result of the video. And they also took umbrage that Fiddy has implied that Benbow was a liar.

Fiddy explains his view of the situation here. He took the video off of YouTube recently and issued an apology to Benbow. Fiddy, most of you know, had some rotten experiences on Seroxat (Paxil).

Going after Fiddy for comparing Benbow to Hitler shows an incredibly thin skin on Benbow’s behalf and how silly British press laws are (the subject for another day perhaps). It’s also a move that Fiddy should regard as a backhanded compliment and a badge of honor. He’s being targeted because he is one of the loudest voices on the Internet denouncing GSK and how it’s handled Paxil/Seroxat and he’s clearly gotten under Benbow’s skin. Basically, GSK used lawyers to intimidate an activist into shutting up, especially in light of the fact that there are many, many others on the Internet who have talked serious trash about Benbow. Unless GSK plans to go after everyone who’s said anything sharp about Benbow, then they have singled out Fiddy.

Beyond that, this kind of behavior on GSK’s part chaps my hide, as the saying goes, because GSK has had run ins with academics before and attempted to stifle their views. I simply won’t tolerate this sort of nonsense and since I have obtained a copy of the video thanks to the magic of the Internet, I am posting it here, unedited.

The video is also on YouTube here. You can comment on it here or on YouTube. I know that Paxil/Seroxat stirs passions like few other psych meds, so I’d simply ask that people who feel compelled to comment on this matter in any fashion keep their rhetoric reasonably decent.

Learn more about Benbow here:

Seroxat increases suicidal thinking – it’s official – 2: Alastair Benbow weighs in

Panorama interactive forums

Benbow – “Science, not hype, will be the king here…

Alastair Benbow and the General Medical Council – are the GMC protecting Benbow?

The magnificent Alastair Benbow in full flow…

Seroxat comics once again – given the findings of the MHRA’s investigation into Glaxo they’re quite current once more:

Comic 1

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Comic 2

investigate_1.jpginvestigate_2.jpginvestigate_3.jpginvestigate_4.jpg

Comic 3

buying_our_silence_1.jpgbuying_our_silence_2.jpgbuying_our_silence_3.jpgbuying_our_silence_4.jpg

I’m not sure which one I like best – it’s maybe a bit unfair to pick on poor Alastair Benbow quite so much because Breckenridge was just as useless when he was interviewed on Panorama.

OK – I’m sorry, I’ve had a chance to reconsider that last remark – I take it back. Pick on Benbow as much as you like, he deserves it!

You’ll remember that Benbow is the man, who, when asked on television by pharmacology expert Dr Andrew Herxheimer about why GSK had given no warning about the severe reactions from Seroxat despite knowing about it for 5 years… simply replied “Seroxat has provided countless benefits to many people and enabled them to do more, live longer and feel better… and I think that speaks for itself…”

That reply certainly does speak for itself – Glaxo’s corporate mission statement is “… enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.” In fact, you can download GSK’s corporate brochure here – it’s entitled “Do more, feel better, live longer”.

Good to know we can rely on Dr Alastair Benbow to seriously address patient concerns about one of Glaxo’s drugs without even bothering to consider the direct question that had been asked.

Watch Benbow in action here and marvel at the way he continually avoids questions.

Please remember Alastair – it’s just a little bit of  fun!

Seroxat increases suicidal thinking – it’s official – 2: Alastair Benbow weighs in

I am getting VERY confused by all this…

Just a few days ago, we had this news:

WARNINGS of the dangers of suicidal thoughts and behaviour are to be
included in the packages of anti-depressants in the UK. Warnings will be
carried in the patient information leaflet in the packets from October this
year (2008).

The direction was issued yesterday (Tuesday 5 February 2008) by the Government’s
Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

So it’s official then – Seroxat/Paxil is linked to suicide.

But wait – in a Panorama interview in April 2003, GlaxoSmithKline’s own spokesman, the one and only Alastair Benbow told us (in no uncertain terms):

“The evidence, however, is clear, these [Seroxat/Paxil] medicines are not linked with suicide, these medicines are not linked with an increased rate of self harm.”

And in ‘E-mails from the edge’ a Panorama programme broadcast in May 2003, Benbow once again defended Seroxat. He said “Whilst self-harm and suicidal thoughts are clearly a feature of depression, they have not been shown in carefully done studies to be a feature of treatment with these [Seroxat/Paxil] medicines.”

Now, remind me again Alastair – where did you put those “carefully done studies” that show Seroxat treatment is not associated with suicidal thoughts.

I think we would all like to see them – in fact, why didn’t you show them to the MHRA before it decided to add the new warnings to the patient information leaflet?

Panorama interactive forums

The links below will take you to three Panorama interactive web forums that took place after broadcasts of the Seroxat programmes.

They’re worth watching to see our good friend Alastair Benbow in full flow defending Seroxat as only he can… you also get to see Charles Medawar, David Healy and Andrew Herxheimer.

14 October 2002

11 May 2003

11 July 2003

Seroxat Comics – reprise

When I was young a big part of my summer holiday were the comics I bought. So in the spirit of times past, here are the Seroxat comics yet again:

Comic 1

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Comic 2

investigate_1.jpginvestigate_2.jpginvestigate_3.jpginvestigate_4.jpg

Comic 3

buying_our_silence_1.jpgbuying_our_silence_2.jpgbuying_our_silence_3.jpgbuying_our_silence_4.jpg

I’m not sure which one I like best – it’s maybe a bit unfair to pick on poor Alastair Benbow quite so much because Breckenridge was just as useless when he was interviewed on Panorama.

OK – I’m sorry, I’ve had a chance to reconsider that last remark – I take it back. Pick on Benbow as much as you like, he deserves it!

You’ll remember that Benbow is the man, who, when asked on television by pharmacology expert Dr Andrew Herxheimer about why GSK had given no warning about the severe reactions from Seroxat despite knowing about it for 5 years… simply replied “Seroxat has provided countless benefits to many people and enabled them to do more, live longer and feel better… and I think that speaks for itself…”

That reply certainly does speak for itself – Glaxo’s corporate mission statement is “… enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.” In fact, you can download GSK’s corporate brochure here – it’s entitled “Do more, feel better, live longer”.

Good to know we can rely on Dr Alastair Benbow to seriously address patient concerns about one of Glaxo’s drugs without even bothering to consider the direct question that had been asked.

Watch Benbow in action here and marvel at the way he continually avoids questions.

Benbow – “Science, not hype, will be the king here…

 Comedy Gold…

Dr Alastair Benbow, GSK’s European medical director, weighs in on the Avandia debate with all his authority…. Ali B tells us that “… Avandia’s risks have been overblown: Science, not hype, will be the king here.” He went on “Patients don’t necessarily understand the science behind these figures. You can blame the way it [the 43 per cent excess risk of heart attack] is presented as a big-ticket number when the actual numbers [the increase in risk] were very small.”

Good. Fine. That’s clear then Dr Benbow… er, sorry, but what are you actually trying to say here?

Read this recent complaint to the General Medical Council about Benbow and see if you think he’s up to his old tricks again, but this time with Avandia

This from The Times July 9:

Big Pharma’s bitter pill

A £9bn controversy over a diabetes pill raises vital questions about the future of blockbuster drugs

It may rank as one of the costliest sentences to run in a medical journal. On May 21, The New England Journal of Medicine broke its usual embargo and posted online a paper by scientists who had been studying data on a diabetes drug, rosiglitazone.

Dr Steve Nissen and Kathy Wolski’s summary of 42 patient trials into rosiglitazone, sold under the name Avandia by its makers GlaxoSmith-Kline (GSK), had a devastating pay-off: “Rosiglitazone was associated with a significant increase in the risk of myocardial infarction and with an increase in the risk of death from cardiovascular causes that had border-line significance.”

In other words, diabetics who took the drug ran a 43 per cent higher risk of heart attack (a 1 per cent risk rose to 1.43 per cent) and, possibly, a 64 per cent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease (a 1 per cent risk rose to 1.64 per cent) than patients who took a placebo or an alternative medicine, according to Dr Nissen, a cardiologist, and Wolski, a statistician. Within days of publication, £9 billion had been wiped off the value of GSK.

The company fought back with a letter to The Lancet, deriding Nissen’s meta-analysis methodology and claiming that the side-effects of Avandia, approved for use in the US and Europe in 1999, were comparable to those of rival diabetes medications. GSK’s letter, written by Dr Ronald Krall, the company’s chief medical officer, revealed that its own studies were beginning to point the same way, findings that the company had passed to regulators. GSK’s Avandia-induced headache was exacerbated last week by a small study published in the journal Diabetes Care, linking the drug to a loss of bone density in men. A possible similar effect in women had already been reported.

Whether fairly or not, Avandia risks joining Vioxx – a painkiller voluntarily withdrawn by Merck after being linked to heart attack and stroke – as a totem of the darker practices in the world of Big Pharma: the dogged pursuit of remedies for the ailments of an indulgent West (obesity, diabetes, heart disease); the relentless research and marketing campaigns devoted to me-too medications that offer no substantial benefit over existing therapies; the steep prices charged for branded drugs; the perceived financial cosiness between companies, regulatory agencies and researchers; the selective disclosure of information that shows off experimental therapies in the best possible light; the heavy-handed tactics allegedly employed to silence critics.

Nissen, a heart specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, is a seasoned whistle-blower: he wrote a key paper that led to the withdrawal of Vioxx, and has previously criticised the FDA for what he regards as a lax attitude towards drug safety. GSK has speculated that the timing of Nissen’s paper is suspicious (it coincided with US government meetings on the FDA’s future), and may have more to do with politics than patient safety.

Why would GSK question Nissen’s motives? Benbow insists it is patient welfare. But it would be naive not to mention the bottom line – profits.

Until 2003, pharmaceuticals was the most profitable industry in the world (it now comes third, behind crude oil production and commercial banking). Pfizer is at the top of the food chain with its cholesterol-buster Lipitor. It is by far and away the world’s bestselling drug, reeling in $12 billion (£6 billion) in sales a year.

Every pharmaceutical company dreams of enjoying a comparably large slice of the healthcare pie, estimated to be worth $660 billion (£328 billion) by 2020, which is why companies like developing “blockbusters” – defined as drugs expected to reap at least $1 billion in sales a year. These tend to be for common complaints, such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, arthritis or depression. GSK’s biggest hitter is Advair, an antiasthma medicine, which brings in $3.2 billion (£1.6 billion) annually. Avandia was second with $1.3 billion (£0.65 million).

On average, blockbusters take about 15 years to travel from laboratory to market, a journey that costs around $1 billion. Around four in ten medicines fail at the final hurdle, the Phase 3 clinical trial (when tested in patients against placebo or another drug). Because of this, companies spread their bets by having several therapies in development at the same time. This costly approach is used by Big Pharma to justify high prices on the market.

The blockbuster approach, however, is under attack. According to a report by the accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers published this month, the pharmaceutical industry business model is “economically unsustainable”. Drug companies, the report noted, spend twice as much on research and development than ten years ago but produce half as many drugs.

Share prices have suffered on the back of leaky drug-development pipelines, soaring sales and marketing costs, the prospects of lawsuits (Merck faces more than 11,000 patient lawsuits over Vioxx) and the appearance of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which vets drugs to ensure that they deliver value for money in a cash-strapped NHS. In addition, the finding that not all patients respond similarly to drugs is driving research towards personalised medicines and away from a one-blockbuster-treats-all philosophy. These challenges are, slowly, leading Big Pharma to expand its horizons beyond blockbusters. This month, GSK opened a £50 million imaging centre, a collaboration with Imperial College and the Medical Research Council, which is designed to speed up (and cut the cost of) drug development. It is a tacit admission that companies are finding it harder to go it alone in the hunt for innovative new medicines.

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