(this following is an anonymous comment left on Bob Fiddaman’s blog over the last day…some of you might find it interesting)
“As a former senior executive of GlaxoSmithKline, I am appalled at the despicable actions of Andrew Witty and all the other former Execs involved in the Marketing and Sales of GSK products during the years in question. I’m proud to say I was a part of an internal support function that practiced zero tolerance as it related to the ethical procurement of goods and services. Andrew Witty is a shameful fraud and it is unfortunate that the GSK stockholders are such a weak group and don’t revolt and demand his and Sir Christopher’s resignation. I am totally disgusted and embarrassed by what has happened.”
Greg Thorpe GSK Whistleblower and the ‘DarkKnight’
One of the recent UK GSK whistleblowers, Greg Thorpe, is letting off some steam on a UK newspaper website:
“Someone over there ask Sir Witty, VP in marketing at the same time, app. 1997-2000, what his role was in all this blood money. He calls it echoes of the past, another era, another company yet he was there. Did he participate ? Did he know ? What did he know ? Why did he not come forward ? Why won’t he answer these questions, seems logical….whether he was involved or not. I blew the whistle, I was tossed out after 24 years with the company.”
“I was terminated and retaliated against for the last 11 years. The law demands that GSK pay double back pay, reinstate me..or pay front pay, plus pay for the horrors they have put me and my family through for the last 10 plus years. GSK covered up their conduct, got caught and now Witty is “sorry” ? Yes, actions speak louder than words…..this “changed” company, who should reward me for coming forward to them with the marketing schemes, now wish to use their “blood money”, to deny me my rightful compensation. They took 11 years from me and my family suffered. I was blackballed in the pharmaceutical business. In the meantime Witty was “knighted”. Well Sir Witty, now you are making me fight you in Court for what you owe me. GSK is huge, but you will not break me. So from now on, when you say you are sorry, tell the whole story, not just your filtered version. Appoint me as your compliance officer, I am well qualified….No GSK has not changed, they intend on shooting the real messenger that tried to change the company…..again. Nice try Sir Witty, tell the whole story the next chance you get…Sincerely Thorpe the “commoner”.
Oh yes, and you Britts must read my Complaint, and see the exhibits, you can find it online…Thorpe v. GlaxoSmithKline.
Quite the story…3 billion dollars, hmmmm.”
“Much of the evidence that was acquired for the case against GlaxoSmithKline was provided by whistle-blowers from within the company, according to rtmagazine.com. These whistle-blowers gave extensive and essential evidence about the corrupt nature of the company and the various degrees of alleged immoral, unethical, and illegal actions that where undertaken in order to enhance the sales of the misrepresented drugs. This highly negative portrayal of the company from inside resources will likely have a lingering negative impact on the public’s perception of the company, and consequently a negative impact on the stock price as well.”
(Note: This is a draft Post.. I will be adding to it as the days and weeks go by)
As many of you will already know, GSK has just pleaded guilty to the largest and most costly charge of Fraud and corruption in global corporate history. The settlement GSK agreed on with the US Department of Justice topped over $3 Billion. While, I am happy to see GSK’s dirty deeds are exposed and dominating the current mainstream media, I can’t help but ask the question, what role has GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty played in this GSK scandal?
Mr Witty released a statement about this 3 Billion dollar fine and I quote:
Commenting on the agreement, GlaxoSmithKline CEO Sir Andrew Witty said:
“Today brings to resolution difficult, long-standing matters for GSK. Whilst these originate in a different era for the company, they cannot and will not be ignored. On behalf of GSK, I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learnt from the mistakes that were made.”
“We are deeply committed to doing everything we can to live up to and exceed the expectations of those we work with and serve. Since I became CEO, we have had a clear priority to ingrain a culture of putting patients first, acting transparently, respecting people inside and outside the organisation and displaying integrity in everything we do.”
“In the US, we have taken action at all levels in the company. We have fundamentally changed our procedures for compliance, marketing and selling. When necessary, we have removed employees who have engaged in misconduct. In the last two years, we have reformed the basis on which we pay our sales representatives and we have enhanced our ability to ‘claw back’ remuneration of our senior management.”
“We have a vital role to play in bringing innovative medicines to patients and we understand how important it is that our medicines are appropriately promoted to healthcare professionals and that we adhere to the standards rightly expected by the US Government.”
“I find it very interesting that Witty chooses to deem these immoral and unethical deeds of GSK as coming from another ‘era’. The dictionary definition of ‘era’ is : “A Long and Distinct Period of History with a particular feature or characteristic”. These crimes and unethical marketing practices were continuing up until the GSK Avandia scandal a few years ago. Less than a decade is hardly an ‘era’ is it? So why would Witty choose this word ‘era’? Is he trying to distance himself from his own role and involvement in GSK’s notoriously aggressive and unethical marketing practices? Witty, has after all, spent all of his working life with GSK. His entire career has thus far been built on serving different roles within the GSK corporate structure. Many of these roles were high level positions within the company. Surely he had to be aware of the practices his company was engaging in?”
In 1997, Andrew Witty was well on his way up the GSK corporate ladder, with his role as VP- General Manager of Marketing. 1997 to 1998 was the era of DTC (direct to consumer marketing). It was also the year that Paxil was aggressively marketed by GSK for disorders outside of its main target consumer, ie. Post-traumatic Stress and Anxiety disorders. 1998 was the year that GSK pushed Paxil(Seroxat) upon millions of people.
What role did Andrew Witty have in these aggressive advertising campaigns? How much did he know about the risks of Seroxat back then? The fact of the matter is, Andrew Witty has held majorly important roles within GSK during the “era” which he is trying to convince us has passed.
Andrew Witty is of this “era”.
These are questions which the mainstream media need to address.
But as always, with multinationals like GSK, the only time they seem to care is when their stocks and shares are affected. This is reflected in some of the following comments from a GSK investor forum online :
Corruption is endemic It’s pervasive and may well have infected the whole company.Glaxo funds PhD’s.A major reservation is whether we can trust private companies to R&D essential medicines, since they receive few enough regulation and monitoring?Their primary aim is profit.Everything is tuned to that end.A cure discovered would be withheld if it threatened a regular money maker that relieves the illness though doesn’t cure it.If you think that is paranoia you are naive.I haven’t sold my stock holding but I am on the point of it as I read this. I dismissed Dirty Medicine as gibberish when I was made to read it decades ago, but it has turned out true.We need regulation in biotech as well as in banking. I just dont want to hold shares in companies that are immoral, because as an owner, that makes me immoral.[link]-Medicine-Martin-Walker/dp/185860026X citytrade
Bob Fiddaman, the author of ‘Seroxat Sufferers’ is also raising some interesting questions regarding GSK and the Andrew Witty era.
(For More from Fiddaman’s take on the situation see link above)
Glaxo’s PR Department must have been hard at work these past few months or so. Searching for Witty’s previous roles at the company have been exhausting. His bio page on the GlaxoSmithKline page doesn’t really tell us anything about him at all, particularly between the years of 1997 and 1998 when he was head of the Glaxo Wellcome marketing team. One would think that winning an award for his marketing achievements during this period would sit proudly on any person’s bio or CV…not Andrew Witty’s though. Maybe it’s a past that he would rather forget about or maybe his recent statement [above] would seem utterly ridiculous given that he himself was part of the problem [era]___________________________________________________________________
Another finely authored Seroxat blog, “Seroxat Secrets”, is also asking questions about GSK and their momentous 3 Billion Dollar Fine. Seroxat Secrets is an excellently researched blog, and in this post you can see links to damning documents about GlaxoSmithKline released from the department of Justice. Seroxat Secrets: Here’s a piece from Business Insider’s Jim Edwards.
Go and have a look at Jim’s article and you’ll get a glimpse into the world of drug ‘marketing’ and what Glaxo thinks is an acceptable way of doing business.
Andrew Witty claims that none of this goes on any more – I don’t believe him for one second as I think that the illegal activities are simply too ingrained in the way Glaxo does business. What Witty said was “I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learned from the mistakes we made.”
What have you learned then, Andrew?
What was Andrew Witty’s role at GSK in 2001, when Advair (the controversial GSK Asthma med) was being illegally marketed?
Amongst the many thousands of articles and opinion pieces about GSK’s latest scandal, these are some of the best (snippets).
From Ginger Breggin, wife of Dr. Peter Breggin (Huffington Post) :
In April 2001,
Implemented a marketing effort of unprecedented scale … with 2,300 sales representatives scheduled to visit some 70,000 US doctors, responsible for writing 80% of asthma prescriptions, in the first week … This push will be accompanied by a direct-to-consumer advertising campaign on television, aimed at raising the profile of the new drug with patients and maximizing sales of the drug within two to three years.
It worked! The asthma drug Advair became a never-ending blockbuster with sales of $7.8 billion in 2010 and predictions that the COPD drug market, which Advair leads, will reach $13.4 billion worldwide in 2020. As if scripted by Michael Moore, at 5.5 minutes into the DOJ video, one of the executives brays, “There are people in this room who are going to make ungodly sums of money selling Advair.” People squirm in their seats with delight and loudly applaud. “The more you sell, the more you make,” he nearly shrieks while using his handheld remote to display a giant simulated slot machine on the huge screen. “God bless America. Free enterprise is a wonderful concept,” he crows.
Watching this video, I felt appalled by this misuse and abuse of my values. I felt outraged, as a physician, at the utter contempt with which GlaxoSmithKline holds the medical profession. I felt frightened for all of us who consume the products of these corporations.
From Stuart Smith’s Blog:
“It’s a grubby tale, stretching back over a decade, which involves bribery, treating, corporate bullying and wilful suppression of the truth. And an interesting definition of what appears to have passed for trade marketing in Big Pharma.”
Glaxo admitted corporate misconduct over the mis-selling of three drugs, the anti-depressants Paxil (known over here as Seroxat) and Wellbutrin, plus the asthma drug Advair.
Most egregious, perhaps, was the “repositioning” of Paxil – once GSK’s best-selling drug – as safe for adolescents, when clinical trials had failed to establish any such premise. No expense was spared in covering up this inconvenient truth.
If the employees (whistleblowers) at the lower levels knew about these unethical, fraudulent and illegal activities, surely those at the higher levels (such as Andrew Witty) were aware also?
Makers of Drugs Lose Trust
Four GlaxoSmithKline employees tipped off the government about the improper practices from the late-1990s to the mid-2000s. They said the company went as far as preparing an article for a medical journal that misreported data from a clinical trial.
What’s more, prosecutors have not brought criminal charges against any individuals. No one was fired. No one was held accountable. That’s right, no jail time for company executives who engaged in unlawful behavior.
How much did Andrew Witty know about the dangers of Seroxat during his lengthy career at GSK?
From Peter Hitchens (Daily Mail UK):
They sold us ‘happy pills’ – but all we got was suicide and misery
I would have thought it was blaring, front-page, top-of- the-bulletin news that GlaxoSmithKline, one of our biggest companies, has just been fined £2 billion (yes, you heard that right, £2 billion) in the US for – among other things – bribing doctors, and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable drugs to children.
Its drug Paxil, sold here as Seroxat, was promoted as suitable for teenagers and children, even though trials had shown it was not.
Just remember that this was the same sly song that Big Tobacco sang, when it first became obvious that cigarettes caused cancer. It is time for a proper investigation, with evidence on oath and the power of subpoena.
From Ed Silverman at Pharmalot:
The Glaxo CEO & His Public Relations Debacle
Earlier this week, GlaxoSmithKline ceo Andrew Witty made an unusual statement. In response to a $3 billion settlement with the US Department of Justice, which alleged the drugmaker engaged in off-label promotion, a failure to report safety data and reporting false prices, Witty came rather close to issuing the sort of apology that is rare in an industry where every large drugmaker has struck a similar deal and viewed the penalties as a cost of doing business.
At the same time, the message he tried to deliver – the events that led to criminal and civil charges occurred a long time ago and steps have since been taken to change the way business is conducted – were undermined to some extent by an accompanying message from the corporate communications team. How so? On one hand, Witty is remorseful and attempts to accept the punishment. But a separate company statement sounded argumentative, as if the case is still being fought.
Contrast and compare. First, here is the specially crafted statement from Witty: “Today brings to resolution difficult, long-standing matters for (Glaxo). Whilst these originate in a different era for the company, they cannot and will not be ignored. On behalf of (Glaxo), I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learnt from the mistakes that were made,” he said (here is the statement).
“We are deeply committed to doing everything we can to live up to and exceed the expectations of those we work with and serve. Since I became ceo, we have had a clear priority to ingrain a culture of putting patients first, acting transparently, respecting people inside and outside the organisation and displaying integrity in everything we do,” he continued.
“In the US, we have taken action at all levels in the company. We have fundamentally changed our procedures for compliance, marketing and selling (see this). When necessary, we have removed employees who have engaged in misconduct. In the last two years, we have reformed the basis on which we pay our sales representatives and we have enhanced our ability to ‘claw back’ remuneration of our senior management,” he maintained.
And finally, Witty concludes by saying that, “we have a vital role to play in bringing innovative medicines to patients and we understand how important it is that our medicines are appropriately promoted to healthcare professionals and that we adhere to the standards rightly expected by the US government.” The rest of the official statement does include a sentence saying the civil settlement reached with the feds over off-label promotion “does not constitute an admission of any liability or wrongdoing.” Otherwise, though, Witty is rather contrite.
At the same time that Glaxo released its statement, the corporate communications team offered additional comments to the media. And these comments took a more aggressive posture in referring to the various criminal and civil charges. For instance, in response to the allegations that the Wellbutrin SR antidepressant was marketed for unapproved uses, such as for sexual dysfunction (see this), a Glaxo spokesman wrote: “The government has made many allegations and legal conclusions concerning Wellbutrin that GSK disputes.”
The feds also alleged that Glaxo illegally promoted the Paxil antidepressant for treating depression in patients under age 18, even though the FDA never approved the pill for pediatric use. There was another charge that the drugmaker participated in preparing, publishing and distributing a misleading medical journal article that misreported that a Paxil clinical trial demonstrated efficacy in treating depression in patients under age 18, when the study failed to demonstrate efficacy. And Glaxo allegedly did not make available data from two other studies in which Paxil also failed to demonstrate efficacy in treating depression in patients under 18, and sponsored various programs to promote the use of Paxil in children and adolescents. These activities resulted in a misbranding charge (see this).
While Witty and his handlers did their best to portray a company that has undergone rehabilitation, the communications team simultaneously offered a response that might have been uttered by one of the combatants in the Gears of War video game: “The government has made many allegations that are either inaccurate or incomplete, that selectively tell only parts of the story and that draw unwarranted conclusions from disputed facts.”
“This undercuts what Witty said,” one executive at a major public relations agency, who asked for anonymity, tells us. “He comes out and says we are committed to doing things differently and then the public relations staff says we did nothing wrong. I think the stronger tact is to stick with saying that we are doing things differently… I’d let the ceo comments stand, rather than undercut him with the doublespeak.”