GlaxoSmithKline fined $3bn after bribing doctors to increase drugs sales
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: March 14th, 2016
The pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline has been fined $3bn (1.9bn) after admitting bribing doctors and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable antidepressants to children. The company encouraged sales reps in the US to mis-sell three drugs to doctors and lavished hospitality and kickbacks on those who agreed to write extra prescriptions. The company admitted corporate misconduct over the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin and asthma drug Advair. GSK also paid for articles on its drugs to appear in medical journals and "independent" doctors were hired by the company to promote the treatments. Paxil which was only approved for adults was promoted as suitable for children and teenagers by the company despite trials that showed it was ineffective. Children and teenagers are only treated with antidepressants in exceptional circumstances due to an increased risk of suicide. The second drug to be mis-sold was Wellbutrin another antidepressant aimed only at adults. The prosecution said the company paid $275,000 to Dr Drew Pinsky, who hosted a popular radio show, to promote the drug on his programme, in particular for unapproved uses. US attorney Carmin Ortiz said: "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." Despite the large fine, $3bn is far less than the profits made from the drugs.
Note: In February 2016, GlaxoSmithKline was fined another $53 million by the UK for preventing generic competition. The list of huge fines to top drug companies includes five fines of over $1 billion and dozens over $100 million. How can we trust these companies on the safety and reliability of their products?