Personal pain led Twin Cities widow to prescription drug safety advocacy


Personal pain led Twin Cities widow to prescription drug safety advocacy


Like so many people, Kim Witczak’s call to activism was born of personal heartache. In 2003, her husband, Tim (“Woody”) Witczak, sought help for insomnia. His doctor prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft. Five weeks later, Witczak’s father found Woody dead, hanging from the rafters of the couple’s garage in south Minneapolis. Soon after, the widowed Witczak launched a national drug safety campaign to assure stronger safety measures for psychiatric drugs, including black box suicide warnings to protect those at-risk for devastating side effects.

She has testified before the U.S. Senate and co-organized an international conference in Washington, D.C., which brought together scholars, health care reformers, consumer advocates and health journalists to discuss what she calls the “selling of sickness.”

This week, Witczak flew to Washington to begin her appointment as a consumer representative on the FDA’s Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee — Minnesota’s only member.

Witczak, 49, grew up in Bloomington. A freelance advertising executive and co-founder of Free Arts Minnesota, she has never remarried. She travels and enjoys yoga, but her volunteer work with has been essential to her healing. “I got involved,” she said, “to make sure other families didn’t have to go through what we learned the hard way.”

Q: How did you connect the dots from Woody’s death to a prescription drug?

A: From the beginning, his death made no sense to me. Woody wasn’t depressed, nor did he have a history of depression or any other mental illness. The only thing that changed in his life was Zoloft. He experienced every known side effect, like diarrhea, night sweats, trembling hands, and his anxiety worsened. He also became easily agitated and kept expressing this feeling of his head being detached from his body. We now know this is a neurological disorder called akathisia. Woody was never told about this potentially deadly side effect and his doctor might not have even been aware of it.

Q: How many people are at risk of similar adverse side effects from Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac and the like?

A: About 3 to 5 percent of the population. That might not sound like a lot, but there are more than 100 million prescriptions for antidepressants written every year, totaling more than $11 billion in sales. Adults and children are being given antidepressants for a growing number of ailments, including depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, anxiety, PMDD [premenstrual dysphoric disorder], menopause, insomnia, pain management and migraines. Do the math and that’s a lot of people who potentially can have serious issues with these powerful, mind-altering drugs.

Q: But would you agree that antidepressants — when prescribed appropriately, and in concert with talk therapy, exercise and other healthy habits — also can be lifesavers?

A: Sure, in some cases of severe depression, antidepressants in combination may help. Personally, I think there are a lot of other options that I would try first before medications, such as therapy, exercise, peer support groups, mediation, yoga and faith. At the end of the day, pills do not make the life stressor or issue go away.

Regardless, it’s important to remember that antidepressants are serious, mind-altering drugs that need to be closely monitored. The most dangerous times are when a person first goes on them, when dosages change, and when he or she is coming off them.

Q: You’ve encouraged people to ask their doctors about antidepressants, but what sort of questions?

A: What are the risks and side effects? What clinical trials have been done on this medication? Are there simpler, safer options? What might happen if I don’t do anything?

Asking questions forces the doctor to say, “I have a smart patient.” I’ve heard from doctors who say they would love to have patients who are engaged.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish on this new FDA drug advisory committee?

A: I hope to be a non-conflicted, critical consumer voice asking hard questions about potential risks of the drug under review. Drugs often get approved in small clinical trials in controlled settings, with the true risks and benefits not fully realized until the drug gets into the real world. I have a unique perspective of personal experience and a professional background in advertising, where I can see how it all connects.

Q: You say that there are two vulnerable populations — children and the elderly. How so?

A: The elderly and foster kids are often given powerful anti-psychotics off-label. Most of the major drug companies have paid substantial fines for off-label marketing to these populations. In January, researchers from the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen released findings from the largest review of antidepressant trials, showing that antidepressants doubled the risk of suicide and aggression in kids under 18. The risks to adults may have been seriously underestimated also. This has been given little media attention in the United States.

Q: What are some life skills you’d like to see taught to children who are struggling, in lieu of, or in addition to, medication?

A: We need to stop labeling children. By labeling children, they see themselves as diseased, sick and permanently broken. We need to teach children about emotional resiliency, compassion and forgiveness, for themselves and others. We need to teach children that it is OK to hurt and feel sad. Life is about ups and downs. It is usually during our down periods that personal growth comes.

Q: I’m guessing you’d like to see those skills practiced by adults, too?

A: Absolutely. I would also add the importance of positive and trusting relationships with others, where you can be vulnerable and openly share about life. This makes you realize that you are not alone. I also found volunteering to be helpful, to connect with others who are less fortunate. There is always something to be thankful for in the midst of our pain. We are a combination of spiritual, mental and physical beings. We need to pay attention to all of these areas of our life.


GSK and The Miracle Med – The Happy Horny Skinny Pill

An article in Sunday’s Telegraph ‘could antidepressants be ruining your sex life?’ concerned the use of widely-prescribed SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and the a…

Source: GSK and The Miracle Med – The Happy Horny Skinny Pill

The Economist Discusses GSK’s Dodgy Paxil (Seroxat) Trial And ‘Outcome Switching’

Clinical trials

For my next trick…

Too many medical trials move their goalposts halfway through. A new initiative aims to change that

“….PAXIL was a blockbuster. It was introduced by its inventors, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), in 1992, as an antidepressant. By the early 2000s it was earning the firm nearly $2 billion a year. It was being prescribed to millions of children and teenagers on the basis of a trial, called Study 329, which suggested it was a good treatment for depressed youngsters. But when British regulators took a second look at Study 329, in 2003, they concluded that it had been misleadingly presented. Not only did Paxil do little to help youngsters with depression, it often made things worse—to the extent of making some who took it suicidal. In 2012 the American authorities imposed the biggest fine in the history of the pharmaceutical industry, $3 billion, on GSK for misreporting data on a variety of drugs, of which Paxil was one….”

Since then, Study 329 has become one of the best-known examples of a piece of academic sleight-of-hand called “outcome switching”. This is a procedure in which the questions that a scientific study was set up to answer are swapped part way through for a different lot. Study 329 set out to measure the impact of Paxil on eight different variables, all based around how participants scored on a variety of depression tests. None showed that it was any better than a placebo sugar pill, but the researchers who wrote the paper came up with 19 new measures. Most of those showed no benefit either, but four did. In the paper, those four were presented as if they had been the main measures all along.

Outcome switching is a good example of the ways in which science can go wrong. This is a hot topic at the moment, with fields from psychology to cancer research going through a “replication crisis”, in which published results evaporate when people try to duplicate them. Now, a team of researchers at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, at Oxford University, have set up a project called COMPare, in the hope of doing something about it.

Outcome switching can sometimes be done for good reasons: participants may refuse to fill in a long form, for instance, meaning that no data can be collected from it. But it can also let unscrupulous researchers go on “fishing expeditions” to prove whatever they want. Collect enough data, and correlations that look statistically significant will appear by chance. Pick them out after the event and you have, unless you re-test to demonstrate that they were not flukes, proved nothing.

Study 329 finished in 1998. These days, such shenanigans are supposed to be impossible. American and European regulators require trials to be registered before they begin, complete with information about what they will be investigating and how they will go about it, so that researchers can check their colleagues have done what they promised to do. But enforcement is lax. A meta-analysis—a study of studies—published in BMC Medicine in 2015 found that 31% of clinical trials did not stick to the measurements they had planned to use. Another paper, published in PLOS ONE, also in 2015, examined 137 medical trials over a six-month period and found that 18% had altered their primary outcomes halfway through the trial, while 64% had done the same with secondary, less-important measures of success.

The COMPare team’s results are similar. They analysed all the clinical trials reported between October and January in the five most prestigious medical journals—specifically, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine and the BMJ—looking for evidence of outcome switching.

That came to a total of 67 different trials. Of those, nine were perfect—they had done exactly what they had said they would do, or if they had changed their measurements, they had said so plainly and given their reasons. The other 58, though, had flaws. Between them they contained 300 outcomes that should have been reported but were not, while 357 new outcomes, not specified in the documents describing what the trial would be doing, were silently added.

Where previous research has merely described the problem, says Ben Goldacre, a British doctor and epidemiologist who is leading the project, COMPare hopes to do something about it. For every imperfect trial, the team wrote a letter to the editors of the relevant journal, pointing out the inconsistencies with the aim of setting the record straight.

So far, responses have been mixed. Of 58 letters COMPare has sent out since the project began, seven have been published. Another 16 were rejected by the journals, who argued either that the problem was insignificant or that attentive, industrious readers could work out for themselves what had happened. The rest have seemingly been ignored.

Dr Goldacre—who has built a reputation as a crusader for open science—says some journals’ responses surprised him. He points out that all five have signed up to guidelines that require them to police outcome switching and to make sure papers they publish do not engage in it. The COMPare team plans to collate the responses into another scientific paper, to be published shortly. “I would regard this as a provocation study,” says Dr Goldacre, using the immunological meaning of the term. “When you provoke the system, the responses you get tell you a lot about how the system works. But we’re not doing this to be provocative and snide, we’re doing it to understand the pathology.”

GSK Under CEO Andrew Witty’s Watch…

“….GlaxoSmithKline’s chief executive, Sir Andrew Witty, is to leave the drugmaker next March after collecting a £6.7m pay package last year…

“…Witty’s salary rose to £1.06m from £1.03m in 2012. In addition, he received benefits of £67,000, as well as share awards worth £3.5m based on the company’s performance. This took his annual pay and shares package to £6.5m from £3.9m in 2012. Including his pension, Witty’s total package was £7.2m last year, up from £4.4m in 2012.

The Chinese authorities last year branded the company a “criminal godfather”, accusing it of running a £320m slush fund to bribe doctors and hospital officials with cash payments and visits to prostitutes. GSK said on Thursday that the investigation in China was continuing and that it was co-operating with the Chinese authorities.

“His bonus has been reduced from the maximum possible as both Andrew and the board are mindful of the impact the investigation in China has had on the reputation of the company.”

In 2012, GSK paid a $3bn (£1.8bn) fine for misselling drugs in the US, the biggest healthcare fraud settlement in American history. At the time, Witty was apologetic and announced his determination to stamp out such sales practices, only to see the company embroiled in another scandal within a year…”

So CEO Andrew Witty has announced his retirement, after ten years at the helm of GSK?

It’s interesting how Witty’s decade long tenure mirrors the length of time that I’ve been blogging about GSK, Seroxat, and GSK’s various misdeeds in relation to that awful drug (and others).

Looking at the latest speech from Andrew Witty (video below) you would almost be fooled into thinking that under Witty’s watch for the past ten years, GSK has behaved impeccably wouldn’t you?

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Under Witty’s watch (in 2012) GSK settled a 3 Billion dollar fine with the department of justice in the US for committing multiple crimes against patients/consumers which resulted in deaths of thousands. Witty worked for GSK at the time that these crimes were committed in various high level positions.

Under his watch also came (in 2014) the biggest corruption/bribery scandal of recent times in China involving GSK’s Mark Reilly (described by the Chinese as a ‘criminal godfather’). Again GSK were fined (this time half a billion dollars), and this came despite a corporate integrity agreement with the US department of Justice and several investigations into GSK’s alleged fraud and criminality in several other countries at the time, and an on-going investigation by the serious fraud office (SFO) in the UK.

Witty has been working for GSK since 1985, so he’s had a 32 year career with GSK, in fact he has spent more than ten years more with GSK than he has with anything else. His entire adult life and middle age has been spent with the company in one form or another. Suffice to say then, it would be appropriate to assume then that Witty -is himself – embedded now into the corporate culture at GSK wouldn’t it?

GSK has made him a very rich man indeed.

I reckon Witty is worth at least 50 million pounds ( perhaps a lot more).

His huge pension package, which he will collect now in his very early 50’s, will keep him in the lavish lifestyle which he must be accustomed to by now.

He will be well cushioned and protected until the end of his days.

It would also be safe to assume also that the fact that GSK has made him so wealthy would have a lot to do with why he is so loyal to them wouldn’t it?

People often say, ‘it’s not personal – it’s business’, but when a pharmaceutical company makes a drug, lies about side effects and efficacy, and this fraud harms you, or harms a member of your family (or even kills you or a family member) it isn’t just business- it is personal…

Pharmaceutical company CEO’s (like Andrew Witty) know damn well that there are suppressed risks (and hidden trials etc) from these meds which injure, maim, and sometimes kill- members of the unsuspecting public, but they must justify their own position to themselves in one way or another…

Either that -or they just don’t possess a conscience like most people..

For a good insight into how the pharmaceutical companies have behaved in their pursuit of profit, and in the process killed and maimed people in their tens of thousands, check out this interview from Phil Dawdy (of the now defunct Furious Seasons Blog).

From Ely Lilly’s Zyprexa Files To GSK’s Seroxat Study 329, Big Pharma have been behaving badly for decades..

They haven’t changed, they can’t change because their business model demands increased profits at the cost of patients lives.. (the share-holders must be appeased!)

Andrew Witty knows this, but his paycheck must make up for the inconvenience…

Despite Andrew Witty’s long winded mythical yarn (see video below) GSK didn’t decide to be transparent, or not to pay doctors any more incentives, they have been forced by their department of justice integrity agreement which came as a result of 3 Billion dollars worth of criminality over decades, and even at that they are still spinning propaganda and smokescreens…

Everything they do is for their own self interest..

(See Whistle-Blower Greg Thorpe’s Department Of Justice Complaint for some hair raising tales of GSK’s criminality over the years)

Andrew Witty was chosen as GSK’s PR Face to the max…

He’s slick, and he is good at creating good optics for GSK, but optics aren’t reality..

Good job Witty, you got tens of millions of GSK blood money for the price of your own conscience and soul…

You did a great job for GSK, you defended the indefensible..

It’s all been documented on this blog and others.

Enjoy your retirement…

gsk cia


Who Will Replace His Royal-Ness Andrew Witty At GSK?

It seems to be that GSK just replace one sociopath with another..

I can just imagine the interview process for CEO…

We’ve had JP Garnier (he was a very good sociopath), then we had Witty (who was arguably even better).. very convincing , very slick…

Who next?

I bet it’s something like a tick the boxes ‘sociopath’ checklist for the selected candidates…

Something like this perhaps?…


Woodford Demands Outsider To Take GSK Helm

The high-profile fund manager tells Sky News a “fresh pair of eyes” is needed to replace Sir Andrew Witty at GSK.

10:58, UK, Thursday 17 March 2016

GlaxoSmithKline Chief Executive Andrew Witty poses with his medal after being honoured with a Knighthood by Prince Charles

Sir Andrew Witty poses after being honoured with a knighthood

Britain’s biggest drugs-maker, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has been told to ignore internal candidates in its search for a new boss as shareholders intensify demands for a radical overhaul of the company.

Speaking exclusively to Sky News, Neil Woodford, the City’ s best-known fund manager, said that GSK needed “a fresh pair of eyes” to replace Sir Andrew Witty, who will step down next year.

“I have a strong preference for an external candidate,” the head of investments at Woodford Investment Management said on Thursday.

Mr Woodford’s demands will put pressure on Sir Philip Hampton, GSK’s new chairman, to appoint an executive from elsewhere in the pharmaceuticals industry to succeed Sir Andrew.

That would come as a blow to possible internal candidates such as Emma Walmsley, who runs GSK’s consumer products division, and Abbas Hussain, president of its global pharmaceuticals unit.

Sky News revealed last autumn that Mr Woodford was seeking a break-up of the £69bn company, which owns brands such as Nicorette and Horlicks.

He believes the group would be far more valuable if it separated its HIV business ViiV, its consumer healthcare division and Stiefel, its dermatology division, from its core medicines and vaccines arm.

GSK said on Thursday that Sir Andrew would step down at the end of March 2017, with a formal recruitment process now underway.

The City has grown frustrated at GSK’s lacklustre share price performance, with the stock down about 10% over the last 12 months as investors wait to see whether a pipeline of promising new products will deliver.

Under Sir Andrew, its chief executive since 2008, GSK has signalled a shift away from highly priced prescription drugs in favour of vaccines and consumer products.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank said the announcement about Sir Andrew’s retirement was unlikely to signal material strategic changes at GSK.

GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty to Retire in March 2017
Marthe Fourcade
Ketaki Gokhale
March 17, 2016 — 7:12 AM GMT
Updated on March 17, 2016 — 12:10 PM GMT

Board will search for CEO candidate inside, outside drugmaker
Chairman Hampton also plans `board refreshment’ this year

GlaxoSmithKline Plc Chairman Phil Hampton began an overhaul of the biggest U.K. drugmaker by launching a search for Chief Executive Officer Andrew Witty’s successor and replacing a third of the board as he seeks to pacify some disgruntled investors.

Witty, 51, will retire next March, after almost a decade at the helm, the London-based company said in a statement on Thursday. Glaxo also plans what Hampton termed a “board refreshment” as directors Deryck Maughan, Stephanie Burns, Daniel Podolsky and Hans Wijers won’t stand for re-election at the annual meeting in May.

Andrew Witty
Andrew Witty
Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Witty, once hailed as one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most visionary managers, has faced criticism for Glaxo’s lagging share performance, sluggish sales and a pipeline lacking promising medicines. A bribery scandal in China that led to a $489 million fine last year also tarnished his image, which he had built with initiatives to develop the world’s first malaria vaccine and reform the way medicines are marketed to doctors.

“Glaxo needs a shakeup at the top,” said Gareth Powell, a portfolio manager at Polar Capital LLP in London whose holdings include Glaxo shares. “There’s a lack of truly innovative products, and that’s what they need to sort out.”
Right Time

Last year, Witty oversaw the biggest reorganization since the merger that created Glaxo 15 years ago. He sold the company’s cancer drugs to Novartis AG in exchange for the Swiss firm’s vaccines business and cash. The companies also formed a joint venture, controlled by Glaxo, to sell consumer health products.

Glaxo shares fell 1.3 percent to 1,394 pence at 12:07 p.m. in London trading. The stock has returned an average of 10 percent a year over the past five years, compared with a 17 percent average annual return for the Bloomberg Europe Pharmaceutical Index.

“By next year, I will have been CEO for nearly ten years and I believe this will be the right time for a new leader to take over,” Witty said in the statement. He began leading Britain’s largest drugmaker in 2008 after more than 20 years at the company, including postings in the U.S., Asia and Africa.
Avoiding Deals

Both internal and external candidates will be considered for the role. Glaxo investor Neil Woodford said he would like to see someone from outside the company take the top job. One of that person’s first tasks may be to slash the dividend, investors said.

Potential candidates include Emma Walmsley, head of Glaxo’s consumer-health division, and Abbas Hussain, president of its drug business, according to reports in U.K. media. Chief Financial Officer Simon Dingemans and Roger Connor, who oversees global manufacturing and supplies, may also be considered as internal successors. David Epstein, head of Novartis’s pharmaceutical unit, may also be approached, the reports said.

Witty’s views have diverged from those of his peers. He has avoided large-scale acquisitions that have consumed others such as Pfizer Inc. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. And in 2011, he started a program called Patient First that eliminated the link between sales targets and bonuses for Glaxo’s U.S. marketing team, following allegations of illegally promoting drugs. Few drugmakers followed his lead.
Fresh Board

Glaxo’s sales declined to 23.9 billion pounds ($34.2 billion) last year from a peak of 28.4 billion pounds the year after Witty joined. Core earnings per share will probably surge this year, the company has said, after two years of declines.

“The decision will allow him to step aside at a high point following the company’s expected return to double-digit earnings growth in 2016,” Richard Parkes, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in London, wrote in a note to clients.

One bright spot has been Glaxo’s portfolio of HIV medicines, which the company considered spinning off in an IPO before opting to keep it. The British drugmaker also has one of the broadest drug pipelines in the industry, with more than 70 new medicines in development (though many are early-stage drugs that won’t deliver sales anytime soon), according to a Bloomberg Intelligence pipeline analysis.

A breakup of the company, favored by some investors including Woodford, might not generate that much value, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sam Fazeli. Separating the drugs, vaccines and consumer-health units will probably increase Glaxo’s enterprise value of 83 billion pounds ($118 billion) by 10 percent or less, he estimated.

Does Mark Reilly Still Work For GlaxoSmithKline?

“…Herve Gisserot replaces Mark Reilly, who left China after four executives were detained in the nation last month. Gisserot was the senior vice-president of Glaxo’s European business.

Reilly will become part of the drugmaker’s senior executive team in London, said Simon Steel, a company spokesman….”

Regular readers of this blog, and followers of GSK news, would be aware of GSK’s Mark Reilly and his appalling role in GSK’s vast bribery network in China. Reilly got off with a suspended sentence, and was deported back to the UK. However, his behavior, was nothing short of sociopathic and criminal.
Considering Mark Reilly’s involvement in the biggest bribery scandal of recent times in China, and considering that he disgraced British business in general I found it quite disturbing to learn that GSK have kept him on as an employee…
His Linked in is still active also, and it seems he has been kept as a consultant or some such similar role perhaps…



“….GSK was ordered to pay the £297m fine – the largest the Chinese Government has ever handed out. It published an apology to “the Chinese government and the Chinese people” on its website, saying it had “reflected deeply and learned from its mistakes”.

GSK’s China boss, Mark Reilly was given a three-year suspended prison sentence with a four-year probation period. He is to be deported from the country, although the drug maker said he remained in the country as he waited to hear if he had to spend his probation period in China.

Mr Reilly and his Chinese girlfriend featured in a sex tape that was emailed to several senior executives of the drug maker last March. GSK then hired Peter Humphrey, a British investigator based in China, to look into the origin of the video. Mr Humphrey was jailed for two and a half years in August for illegally acquiring the personal information of citizens….’


Blackmail, a sex tape and the fatal error that’s left a top British executive facing 20 years inside a hell-hole Chinese jail

  • Mark Reilly, 52, was a high-flying businessman with GlaxoSmithKline
  • Police raided GSK’s offices and questioned him amid bribery claims
  • In May he was formally accused of presiding over ‘massive bribery network’
  • It’s emerged that investigation was triggered by sex tape featuring Mr Reilly
  • ‘Regardless of facts, Mark Reilly will be found guilty,’ said one legal expert

At first sight, it looks like any other casual family portrait: a middle-aged man, with grey hair and a square jaw poses proudly next to his two grown-up daughters.

The fetching ‘selfie’ was uploaded to image-sharing website Instagram a fortnight ago by the girl standing at its centre, an 18-year-old student from Hertfordshire called Louise Reilly.

‘A bit late, but happy Father’s Day to my wonderful daddy,’ she wrote in the accompanying blurb. ‘I love and miss you every day.’

Daddy's girls: Mark Reilly with daughters Louise (centre) and Jessica. Last summer he was cast into the epicentre of a scandal which would quickly and systematically destroy his picture-perfect existence

Daddy’s girls: Mark Reilly with daughters Louise (centre) and Jessica. Last summer he was cast into the epicentre of a scandal which would quickly and systematically destroy his picture-perfect existence

Louise took the picture at a cocktail party in December 2012, shortly after winning a place to study geography at Oxford University.

Her elder sister, Jessica, who is 21, and studies history at Cambridge University, is standing to her left. Yet, as the statement she chose to accompany it hints, an air of sadness now surrounds this seemingly happy photograph.

That’s because the middle-aged father so proudly showing off his high-achieving daughters is one Mark Reilly — a senior executive with British drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Mr Reilly, 52, was until recently a high-flying businessman with the world at his feet. A glittering 25-year career at GSK had left him dividing time between the Far East — where he ran the £76 billion firm’s Chinese operations — and the exclusive commuter town of Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire, where he lived with his wife Jill in a £1.2 million Grade II-listed 17th-century house.

His daughters had been educated at Bishop’s Stortford College, a prestigious £25,000-a-year private school, where they excelled at sport, music, and drama, each achieving ten A* grades at GCSE, four A* grades at A-level and sailing into Oxbridge.

Last summer, however, Mr Reilly was cast into the epicentre of a scandal which would quickly and systematically destroy his picture-perfect existence.

It became public on June 27, when police in China organised a high-profile raid on GSK’s offices, amid claims that staff were illegally bribing doctors and healthcare officials to prescribe pharmaceutical products.

A few weeks afterwards, they called Mr Reilly in for questioning. He was promptly banned from leaving the country, and has since spent most of his time in various forms of detention.

Sadly, like anyone facing legal problems in autocratic China, Mr Reilly’s human rights have since been blithely disregarded by the authorities.

High-powered: Mark Reilly's wife Jill, who also has a job at GSK. He faces 20 years inside a Chinese jail if found guilty

High-powered: Mark Reilly’s wife Jill, who also has a job at GSK. He faces 20 years inside a Chinese jail if found guilty

For months, he had only limited means to communicate with friends, family, and legal representatives, and was unable to see Louise, Jessica or Jill.

Then, in May, this already perilous situation took a turn for the worse. At a police press conference in Changsha, a 90-minute flight west of Shanghai, Mr Reilly was formally accused of presiding over a ‘massive bribery network’ in which doctors and health officials were illegally paid £320 million over several years.

In scenes reminiscent of a Soviet-era show trial, detectives aggressively dubbed him a criminal ‘Godfather’, who they claimed had greased palms with cash and free holidays, and arranged for associates to be given sexual favours from prostitutes.

They refused to take sceptical questions from assembled reporters, instead reading a pre-prepared statement recommending that this supposed ‘criminal’ be prosecuted on multiple counts of bribery and fraud.

The news conference deepened a scandal which had already knocked billions of pounds off shares in GSK, a leading FTSE-100 blue-chip firm held by many pension funds, and damaged Anglo-Chinese diplomatic relations in the process.

In the cold light of day, it also represented a serious affront to justice, compromising a universal principle of fairness: that Mr Reilly should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In China an astonishing 98 per cent of court proceedings end in conviction, and this father-of-two now faces the likelihood of a criminal trial.

‘This is a politically charged case, and China’s politicians control the judiciary.

‘So regardless of the facts, Mark Reilly will be found guilty,’ says Professor Willy Lam, a leading expert on China’s justice system. ‘The question of whether he actually committed a crime will not really be considered. The government will also dictate how long the judges will imprison him for.’

The British Consulate in China says it is following Mr Reilly’s case. Yet despite this, Professor Lam, a scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, says that he will be effectively tried in secret.

‘There will be no jury. Just a judge and his assistants who decide the verdict.

‘There will be no media allowed in court, and no scrutiny of evidence. He may be allowed a few relatives and close colleagues present, and perhaps a UK diplomat. That is all.’

As to his eventual fate, Professor Lam adds: ‘Given the amount of money involved, this is a very serious case, and Mr Reilly could easily be sentenced to life. I expect him to get around 20 years.’

In any normal country, that would be bad enough. But this is China, home to one of the world’s most punitive penal systems.

Indeed, the vast Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai, where Reilly is likely to end up if convicted, is known locally as the ‘city of death’.

Former inmates at the facility have told how guards carry cattle prods and force errant inmates to submerge their heads in buckets full of excrement and urine.

In the notorious ‘punishment wing’, beatings are rife. Human rights groups have published lengthy critiques of torture methods practised there.

So far, so ugly. But last weekend, this father-of-two’s plight became darker still.

In an extraordinary development, it emerged that China’s police investigation into GSK had been triggered by the circulation of a covertly recorded sex tape, in which Mr Reilly featured.

The video was secretly shot at the British businessman’s Shanghai apartment during 2012 and appeared to show him having extra-marital sex with a young Chinese woman.

It was emailed to a range of senior figures at the drug company last January, as part of what appeared to be a bid to threaten or blackmail them.

In a dramatic twist, I can reveal that the woman it depicted was a secretary who worked at a travel agency accused of helping GSK execute its ‘bribery’ scheme.

Family man: Mark Reilly with daughter Louise. One legal expert said that, regardless of the facts, Mr Reilly will be found guilty because it is a ‘politically charged’ case

Even without that tricky fact, the addition of a sex tape to an already snowballing corporate scandal was hugely embarrassing for GSK (which says it is ‘co-operating fully’ with the Chinese investigation), and deeply upsetting for Mr Reilly and his family.

Yet its existence also, surely, suggests that someone, somewhere, is going to very great — not to mention underhand — lengths to bring him and the company down.

Mr Reilly’s nearest and dearest certainly suspect so. Louise and Jessica are (on the advice of the Foreign Office) maintaining a dignified silence, for fear of further provoking the Chinese authorities.

So too are Mark’s mother, brother and sister. However, close friends tell me they are increasingly convinced that Mr Reilly is the hapless victim of an organised sting. ‘Mark has certainly made mistakes,’ says a source with intimate knowledge of the case.

‘He has made bad decisions in his personal life, particularly this sexual indiscretion, and done the odd thing he regrets in business.

‘But is he some sort of master criminal? Of course he isn’t. Does he deserve to spend 20 years in jail? Absolutely not. It’s a terrible stitch-up.’

The source said Reilly has been ‘in and out of detention’ for the past year, sometimes in formal custody, more often in hotels with police officers stationed outside his room.

He remains an employee of GSK, but is able to have only ‘very limited conversations’ with either the firm, his lawyers, or even his daughters, who in an effort to lighten their mood have taken to calling themselves  ‘Team Reilly’.

Dedicated: Mr Reilly was a company 'lifer' who joined the firm in 1989, shortly after leaving university. He and Jill had previously worked in the U.S. and Singapore before he was offered his role in China

Dedicated: Mr Reilly was a company ‘lifer’ who joined the firm in 1989, shortly after leaving university. He and Jill had previously worked in the U.S. and Singapore before he was offered his role in China

‘The family’s first and only priority is to secure Mark’s safe return,’ the source said.

‘But this is China we are dealing with, so things don’t look good. For a man who had so much, it’s very, very sad.’

Mr Reilly’s ill-fated Chinese adventure began in 2009, when he was offered a promotion to become general manager of GSK’s pharmaceuticals division there.

A company ‘lifer’ who joined the firm in 1989, shortly after leaving university, he and Jill (who also has a high-powered executive job at GSK) had previously worked in the U.S, where Louise was born, and Singapore.

With their then-teenage girls in secondary school, Reilly was reluctant once more to uproot his family, however. So he decided to move alone to Shanghai, where Jill and the children would join him in school holidays. On paper, the move represented a fantastic career opportunity.

Though GSK is one of the world’s largest drug companies, its footprint in China is relatively tiny. Indeed, although the country boasts more than 1.3 billion citizens, and is growing dramatically wealthier, it still represents just 3.5 per cent of the firm’s global sales.

Reilly duly set about dramatically increasing the firm’s revenues, setting ambitious sales targets for his mostly Chinese staff. But his eagerness to pursue those goals sparked friction with local authorities.

‘Like most companies in its field, Glaxo has a highly aggressive sales culture,’ says a Shanghai-based source with knowledge of the company’s operations.

‘Sometimes, that has got it in trouble with regulators.’

‘In China, it doesn’t work like that. Get caught, and you’ll go to prison’ – A Shanghai-based source

A few years ago, for example, the firm was ordered to pay a record $3 billion (£1.7 billion) fine in the U.S. after being caught illegally paying doctors to prescribe dangerous drugs. ‘Mark was steeped in this culture, where you push the rules to the limit in order to succeed.

‘Sometimes, you overstep the mark, and the company has to row back, apologise, or even pay a fine,’ adds the source.

‘In China, it doesn’t work like that. Get caught, and you’ll go to prison.’

Trouble began in 2012, when an anonymous whistleblower, thought to be a disgruntled GSK employee, began sending emails to China’s healthcare regulator, making wild allegations about sales practices.

A total of 23 messages were sent, alleging that GSK staff were routinely bribing doctors and healthcare professionals with the authorisation of senior managers. However they were short on details. In January last year, the stakes were raised, significantly.

An 11-page email was dispatched from the address ‘’. In its subject line it claimed to contain a ‘notification of bribery by GSK in China’.

The email — a copy of which has been passed to the Daily Mail — alleged that the firm ‘has engaged in illegal marketing and large-scale bribery to sell its products to Chinese hospitals and doctors’.

It claimed, among other things, that sales staff were wired £1,000 each month from a Citibank account to wine, dine, buy prostitutes for, and pay cash bribes to ‘key decision-makers’ in the purchasing departments of hospitals.

The email named names and gave dates. It told how attempts were made to conceal payments, and accused the firm of doing little to prevent endemic bribery.

It would later end up in the hands of the police, who appeared to quote it (at times verbatim) in May this year, while outlining potential charges against not just Mr Reilly, but 45 of his Chinese colleagues.

‘Is what the email alleges true? I have no idea,’ says the Shanghai source. ‘Even if it is, Mark didn’t know every detail of what went on. He hardly spoke Chinese, for starters.

How could he have known? Shanghai is a very fast city. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that everyone’s a bit dodgy and you have to do dodgy things to get along. If the allegations are true, I could see how it could have happened. But he’s no crook.’

Unfortunately, for Reilly, his case nonetheless struck a potent political chord. The Beijing government is attempting to crack down on a ‘backhander culture’ traditional in Chinese business circles, and GSK, as a wealthy multinational, makes an ideal target.

‘By coming down hard on someone like Reilly,’ says Prof Lam, ‘the authorities can show people that bribery is something they are taking seriously.’

If that was indeed their aim, they were handed a further gift in March last year, when a second email was sent, from the same address, to a separate group of senior staff.

This added details to corruption claims, claiming that doctors and their families were given free holidays in India, Brazil and Japan by GSK, under the guise of attending conference. Agencies were hired to organise luxury travel, and hand them thousands of dollars in cash as ‘speaking fees’, it said.

Attached to the email was large computer file. It contained the tape of Reilly and his mistress. The video was shown to Reilly soon afterwards, during a visit to GSK’s headquarters in London.

He promptly returned to Shanghai and hired a fellow British national, private investigator Peter Humphrey, to establish who had leaked it.

That investigation was still ongoing in late June last year when police carried out their high-profile raid on GSK’s offices. Mr Reilly promptly flew to the UK, on a scheduled holiday.

However several weeks later, he bizarrely decided to return to China to (as GSK put it) ‘help police with their inquiries’.

That move, which of course led to his detention, has until now been shrouded in mystery, since it seems inconceivable a right-thinking British citizen facing any prospect of prosecution in a country such as China should freely travel there.

However, I understand that Reilly was at least partly motivated to return in an ill-fated effort to suppress the sex tape.

‘At the time, you have to remember that Mark was a married man,’ says a close friend. ‘His wife did not know that he had committed any indiscretion.

Posted on Monday 30 June 2014

A year ago, we first began to hear about a GSK bribery scandal in China [an irreducible conflict…]. Pharmagossip has kept us up on the developments. Now this:
Daily Mail
By Hugo Gye
29 June 2014

A covert sex tape involving a senior executive and his Chinese lover was the trigger for a major investigation into corruption at British drugs giant GlaxoSmith-Kline, it was revealed yesterday. The video of married Mark Reilly and his girlfriend was filmed by secret camera and emailed anonymously to board members of the pharmaceutical firm. It led to an investigation that has rocked the £76billion company – which stands accused of bribing doctors and other health officials in China with £320million of gifts, including sexual favours from prostitutes, to persuade them to prescribe its drugs.

Mr Reilly, who ran the company’s Chinese business, was charged six weeks ago with running a ‘massive bribery network’ involving £90million of illegal sales and banned from leaving the country. It was the culmination of a year-long corruption investigation into the FTSE 100 firm. But yesterday, it was revealed the scandal first erupted after the sex tape was emailed by ‘GSK whistleblower’ to board members, including chief executive Andrew Witty, in March 2013, in what was believed to be a threat or blackmail attempt. The footage showed father-of-two Mr Reilly, who is separated from his wife, having sex with his Chinese girlfriend.

He was given permission to hire investigator Peter Humphrey, 58, to find out who had hidden the camera in his Shanghai flat and who had sent two separate emails making serious fraud allegations. The £20,000 probe, codenamed Project Scorpion, focused on disgruntled former employee Vivien Shi, 49, a prominent businesswoman whose family is part of Shanghai’s communist elite. But a few months after starting to investigate Miss Shi, Mr Humphrey was arrested along with his wife Yu Yingzeng, a US citizen and daughter of one of China’s most eminent atomic weapons scientists. According to the Sunday Times, Mr Humphrey’s arrest and detention in July was at around the same time that China began a police probe into GSK’s alleged bribery.

Mr Reilly, 52, of Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, stepped down from his post as China manager soon after Mr Humphrey’s arrest but remains a GSK employee. He returned to Britain around the same time but voluntarily went back to China within days to assist police with their inquiries. He was charged in May this year and accused by police of presiding over a web of corruption and pressing his sales teams to bribe health officials to meet targets…
hat tip to pharmagossip…  
It feels odd reporting a story that seems like it belongs in a check-out line tabloid rather than a medical blog, but that’s where you end up if you follow the pharmaceutical industry. I reckon Reilly’s sex life is actually his business, but hundreds of millions in bribes is everybody’s business. And in this case, the charge is directed against an actual person:
If found guilty, Mr Reilly, who has a PhD in pharmacology and neurosciences from University College London, could face life in prison. Mr Reilly joined GSK in 1989 and has worked in Singapore, Hong Kong and China. He is separated from Jill, 49, with whom he has two teenage daughters, and has moved out of their £1.2million home. It is understood he met Mrs Reilly at university, where she was studying psychology. Like her husband, she took up a post at GSK, working as a director of capital planning…
Two things. First, it has long been the opinion of people watching the misbehavior of the pharmaceutical industry that until the executives in charge start heading off to jail, the corruption will continue under the cost of doing business rule. And so far, Reilly seems to be pretty vulnerable to Chinese justice and jail. Second, it’s inconceivable to me that payoffs of this magnitude could be made without being known all the way up the chain of command. These companies roll through money as if they’re small countries, but the numbers involved here are a good deal more than petty cash.

In with no echo…, I was hypothesizing that by settling out of civil and criminal suits, the pharmaceutical companies avoid any verdict, and invariably quickly say “we admit to no wrongdoing” implying that they settled for who-knows-what reason [like admitting to the least ignoble of the charges]. In doing that, they dampen the incriminating story which then fades quickly – the anechoic effect [see echo echo echo echo echo echo…]. The most obscene version was GSK settling a $3B suit and signing this agreement – then writing a response in a letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education that denies admission of guilt [see the only enduring contract…]. The way this China-gate story is going, it doesn’t at this point look like that’s going to be an option. This is just plain old crime, and one that has the Chinese up in arms [as it should].

And there’s more:
Last month, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office announced it is to investigate the company’s ‘commercial practices’.

Seroxat/Paxil Study 329 : Republic to Empire


“….I asked Rob whether his company would have launched an internal damage limitation exercise like GSK/SKB did around the Panorama programs about paroxetine: Of course he said – and that it would have probably been successful. Employees would have been reassured that the company – their company- would never have deliberately harmed children. Success of the exercise would have been sustained partly through loyalty to the company but mainly because no one could afford to think too closely about whether it was true. Ask too many questions and you would be out on your ear with no chance of getting a reference for a future job…”

Sally McGregor 2016- Dr David Healy’s Blog.

This is an interesting blog post by Sally McGregor, on Prof Healy’s blog.

Basically it seems that Sally is aiming to give readers a view from the other side of the pharma fence (so to speak). Regular readers will know very well what side of the fence, I’m on.

In her post, Sally explains the state (and mind set) of the industry at the time- and she puts into context -how bad stuff like Seroxat study 329, or the Zyprexa scandal, happens..

And effectively how unethical decisions from the top, trickle down, leading to harm to consumers…

I’m not quite sure I completely go along with the view from this perspective (for reasons which I will explain later) however it’s an interesting and insightful read nonetheless and well worth reading…

Study 329: Republic to Empire

March, 16, 2016 | 1 Comment

Interesting Interview About Seroxat And GSK With Blogger Bob Fiddaman

Check out the interview on the link below..

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Radio Interview – Paxil/Seroxat Related

David interviews Bob Fiddaman, a survivor of a Paxil (called Seroxat in the UK, where he lives) prescription. He talks about why he was persuaded to ignore his less than ideal life situation and accept a medical diagnosis, and how Paxil put him in a state where he didn’t care about anything. When he decided he’d had enough, he discovered that withdrawal was hell. Afterwards, instead of walking away, he set up a blog ( where he has tackled the manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, and other manufacturers of similar drugs, with humor, for about 10 years. Finally he describes a British lawsuit over the addictive nature of this SSRI anti-depressant.
Bob’s blog, and links to news items, can be found at:
The interview with me kicks in around the 4.30 mark.

It can also be downloaded here.

Bob Fiddaman.


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