Is anyone in any doubt that we are experiencing a plague of corporatism? From the media sector, the astonishing stories about the behaviour of News International, dwarfed by the scandal after scandal of the financial sector (most recently Barclays coming to the fore), and now, too, a record fine for a drug company.
What’s going on?
I suspect it’s the old “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Or is it the theory that psychopaths rise to the top?
Look at the GlaxoSmithKline story….
prosecutors found the company had been allotting over half a million dollars a year to its district sales representatives to offer doctors regular golf lessons, fishing trips, and basketball tickets while promoting the use of antidepressant drug Paxil in children. The GSK sales campaign also involved helping to publish an article in a medical journal that misreported evidence from a clinical trial. Meanwhile the company was also being accused of marketing the drug Wellbutrin for sexual dysfunction and weight loss, when it had only received official consent from the FDA to treat depression. Some of its drugs reps were reportedly describing Wellbutrin as “the happy, horny, skinny pill”. In the case of a third treatment, Avandia, the company did not report to the FDA studies it had carried out that showed there were safety concerns about heart risks. Critics had been calling for the drug to be banned four years ago yet it was only in 2010 that restrictions were finally slapped on its use.
A combination of selling drugs for indications for which they didn’t have a license (because they hadn’t sought approval), to the setting aside of millions to entertain prescribers, to the much worse, in my opinion, hiding research evidence of harms, burying evidence of lack of efficacy, and misreporting trials in publications, has led to them being hit with one of the largest fines the industry has suffered – $3 billion (£1.9 billion).
The latter issues about deliberate manipulation of the research reporting seriously undermines the credibility of “evidence based medicine” (an enterprise which stands of falls on the issue of what is published as “evidence”)
The fine, although large, is a fraction of the profits made from the drugs this company markets -
Avandia has made $10.4bn in sales, Paxil took $11.6bn, and Wellbutrin sales were $5.9bn during the years covered by the settlement,
What does the GSK CEO say?
At GSK, we firmly believe that operating in a responsible and ethical way is essential for the success of our business. We have come a long way but recognise that there is much more we can do and we will continue to challenge ourselves.
The fine is split between one third as a criminal fine, and two thirds a civil one. Despite this, the company says
the civil settlement is not an does not admission of any liability or wrongdoing in the selling and marketing
The thing is, this company is not alone. Take a look at this link which itemises six major drug companies’ fines over the last three years.
This stinks. But the drug companies are sure not alone. Whatever your political persuasion, is it not clear that corporatism is failing us (the 99%)?