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GlaxoSmithKline Chicanery

Yesterday, Deseret News reported that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will pay $8.5 million dollars to Utah for “defrauding the state’s Medicaid program through allegedly false and misleading marketing of Avandia.” Avandia is a drug intended to manage Type 2 diabetes.

Also, The Scientist reports that Nature Medicine retracted a scientific paper authored by a Smithkline employee, that detailed multiple sclerosis blood cell samples that never existed. This is not the first and only time that GSK has engaged in scandalous practices.

Sensing a drug industry cash cow potential, GSK turned its attention (and lack of scruples) to China last year and its upper level executives apparently engaged in business methods that are sleazy, even by today’s standards. Using travel agents as middlemen to essentially bribe physicians to buy their drugs, acceptable forms of currency included sexual favors, and cash.

Although four Chinese executives have been detained in China and police are investigating them for bribery and other illegal practices to promote drug sales, it is unlikely that anyone will go to prison, and the occasional fine seems to be a part of SKG’s business plan at this point. The Guardian summarizes:

China has accused the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of behaving like a criminal godfather, bribing doctors with cash and sexual favours in return for prescribing its drugs.

Chinese police have detained four senior Chinese executives as part of an investigation that stretches back to 2007 and involves deals worth 3bn yuan (£320m).

The Chinese investigator leading the inquiry said the head of GSK’s Chinese operations, Mark Reilly, a British national, had left the country on 27 June.

Gao Feng, the head of China’s fraud unit, said: ‘We found that bribery is a core part of the activities of the company. To boost their share prices and sales, the company performed illegal actions.’

The Guardian adds:

GSK said it was ‘deeply concerned and disappointed’ by the allegations, and would co-operate fully with the Chinese authorities. However, Gao said the investigators had yet to receive any information from GSK’s British headquarters.

Given the repeated flagrant egregious conduct (sexual favors, for God’s sake), one can only imagine that GSK is actually ‘deeply concerned and disappointed’ that it got busted again, and will firmly commit to being even more secretive.

While GSK may be in the spotlight for the moment, it is not the only Big Pharma company engaging in unscrupulous practices. Worthy of a separate post, for example, is the practice of companies and doctors over-prescribing anti-psychotics, powerful drugs, for every off-label use from pain to anxiety to insomnia. This has become a multi-gazillion dollar industry, and I seriously question its benefit to a single patient.

Related (video) whistleblower explains in detail, the bribery, misconduct and unscrupulous practices:

GlaxoSmithKline whistleblower speaks out about bribery of doctors

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