NEW DELHI: Every time a new charge of corruption surfaced against the multinational pharma giant Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) from a different part of the world, the company has tried to dismiss it as an isolated local issue involving a few employees of which the headquarters had no knowledge. That line is increasingly becoming difficult to sustain as bribery scandals, starting with the one in China last year, have come thick and fast, from Iraq and Poland to Jordan and Lebanon.
According to Sidney M Wolfe of the health research group Public Citizen, GSK topped the list of repeat offenders with total criminal and civil penalties of $7.56 billion since 1991 paid at different points of time. After penalties, GSK often signed Corporate Integrity Agreements (CIAs) with the US government, which were meant to stop the company from committing fraud. In an article he wrote for the British Medical Journal on escalating civil and criminal violations by the pharma industry in the US, Wolfe pointed out that GSK had been under a series of CIAs from 2003 to 2018, with the exception of the 2010 to 2012 interval. Wolfe showed how all the penalties GSK paid over a decade did not amount to much as its profits for 2012 alone were $7.7 billion.
“These escalating patterns of repeated criminal violations and civil settlements to resolve serious allegations of civil lawlessness hardly bespeak corporate integrity for GSK, Pfizer, or the many other companies who are also repeat offenders. We are forced to conclude that neither the current level of penalties nor corporate integrity agreements are effective and that there is a pathological lack of corporate integrity in many drug companies,” concluded Wolfe.
Just to echo the points made in the article above, I’d like to personally say that I don’t believe that GSK executives don’t know about the rampant corruption, fraud and bribery which as been going on in GSK for decades now. It’s just not plausible to believe that the top executives don’t know about these scams. For example: how could Andrew Witty be unaware that millions of dollars of GSK money was used to set up a massive bribery network involving hundreds of people? How did GSK not notice this? It just doesn’t make sense… it’s not credible to believe that the GSK UK HQ (or their American HQ) are completely oblivious to scams that other GSK personnel commit abroad.
It’s interesting also to note that GSK’s Mark Reilly still has a Linkedin account online. Mark Reilly was recently deported from China with a 2 year suspended sentence for creating a bribery network involving hundreds of people and hundreds of millions of dollars. Does Reilly still work for GSK? if so- in what capacity? and also when are the UK government, the FDA, the MHRA, and the US Department of Justice, going to start investigating GSK for possibly breaking its corporate integrity agreement?