GSK’s sponsorship of the Wellchild awards is nothing short of a spectacle of supreme irony. Looking at the photos from the glittering awards you would think that GSK really do care about the health and well being of vulnerable children wouldn’t you?
However nothing could be further than the truth.
GSK’s unethical promotion of Seroxat (Paxil/Aropax) through a fraudulent study (329) caused immeasurable harm (and in some cases death) to tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of children, teenagers, and young adults over a number of years. This deplorable behavior has never been addressed by Andrew Witty, or GSK. I find it astounding, and also disturbing, how Andrew Witty can turn up to the Well Child awards not long after the re-interpretation of Seroxat study 329 harming kids made headline news (from Time magazine, to the Atlantic and The Guardian). It just goes to show the utter callousness of GSK executives.
The following statements from recent media reports about GSK’s Seroxat (Paxil/Aropax) contrast greatly with GSK’s PR promotion of the company at the Well Child awards.
An Australian-led review of a popular anti-depressant drug has found it can tip young people into suicide and is no more effective than a placebo.
The research team also uncovered evidence that the drug’s manufacturer downplayed its deadly side-effects and exaggerated its benefits.
“We felt that bad prescribing decisions were being made on the basis of the way in which the study was reported,” said Professor Jon Jureidini, who led the international team of researchers from Adelaide University’s Critical and Ethical Mental Health Research Group.
“The study claimed to show that paroxetine, an anti-depressant, was effective and safe for young people and in fact, it’s the opposite.”
The team have established that the drug carried twice the level of severe adverse effects across the board, and four times the number of psychiatric adverse events.
Professor Jureidini’s damning reassessment comes after the review team reanalysed data that had originally been gathered during studies from 1994 to 1998 and was published in 2001 by the drug’s manufacturer, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.
The data had been used to support papers published in scientific journals at the time recommending the efficacy and safety of paroxetine.
But Professor Jureidini’s reassessment of the same data has produced markedly different conclusions.
He said the conflicting outcomes demonstrates the system of researching and approving new drugs that is fundamentally broken.
The BMJ authors, led by Prof Jon Jureidini at the University of Adelaide, wrote to GSK in 2013 asking whether the company intended to re-analyse the data itself. They say GSK declined
“It’s a very uncomfortable thing for us to be saying,” says Jureidini about his findings. “I can hear the responses to this study: that what you are doing is poisoning people’s minds in relation to antidepressants, and psychotropic drugs and psychiatry in general, that you are going to do terrible harm. We’re trying to bring out the truth.”
With the current re-analysis, more doctors may weigh the risks of potential increased suicidality more heavily before prescribing the drug to teens. At the very least, physicians who decide to prescribe paroxetine should monitor their patients more carefully for any potential signs of worsening depression or desire to harm themselves.
Kaili Butin still has faint scars on her wrist from the day she tried to kill herself. A family physician had prescribed GlaxoSmithKline’s antidepressant Paxil to treat her depression. It was the fall of 2000, her sophomore year of high school, and she had stopped caring about schoolwork and lost interest in her friends.
“I wanted something to make me feel better,” she says. “I wanted to be a normal teenager. I saw my friends and none of them felt the way I felt.”
Butin was among millions of American teens who took Paxil in the early 2000s. Her doctor’s recommendation helped the antidepressant overtake the competition to garner the highest number of new prescriptions of any drug in its class in 2000. Sales of the pill increased by 17 percent to hit $2.4 billion. Butin, now a 31-year-old accountant living in Ankeny, Iowa, is angry about newly revealed information that GlaxoSmithKline withheld from the public regarding Paxil’s danger to teenagers.