“Fuzzy Boundaries”:Andrew Witty, GSK, And The “Perfectly Legal” Bribing Of Doctors…

Evan Davis
“….But this is a recognition there is a lot you’ve done to present these things differently. But it is a recognition that it was pretty dysfunctional before, isn’t it?
Because publishing data, to me, honestly, doesn’t seem like a great achievement. It just seems to me that that’s what you should be doing with data.
Not bribing doctors seems like a thing you would do…”
Andrew Witty
“….I wouldn’t say it’s bribing doctors
It’s perfectly legal to pay. If you went to a physician and said, would you expect to be paid for speaking on behalf of somebody, they will probably say yes. Actually, in most countries in the world, it’s perfectly legal. However, there are risks it can be abused. People can make mistakes. And there are risks that there is a misperception. Just to your point on publication, do you think academics are mandated to publish their data? Do you think universities publish all their failed studies?
They don’t, but we do….”


For those of you who haven’t seen the video (above) of GSK CEO Andrew Witty squirm in his seat under the heat of some serious questioning it’s well worth viewing…

There’s a lot of issues raised in just that short clip that are worth discussing but I’d like to focus on what the interviewer (Evan Davis) calls ‘Fuzzy Boundaries’ in the (so called) ‘perfectly legal’ (Andrew Witty’s words) bribing of doctors by GSK.


Just because it’s ‘perfectly legal’ to pay doctors to speak on behalf of drug companies does not mean it’s ethical. People aren’t stupid, the public instinctively feel that doctors who are paid consultants to drug companies are bound to be biased and easily influenced, and they would be right in thinking that.

The 2012 Department of Justice complaint (of which your company paid a 3 billion fine for) is riddled with examples of doctors literally prostituting themselves, and their reputations, to GSK. If these are the ‘perfectly legal’ scenarios which you think are ok then you really are out of touch with the public sentiment.

If your ‘perfectly legal’ bribing of doctors was reasonable and acceptable, then we wouldn’t need things like psychiatrist Peter Gordon’s sunshine act for Scotland. Peter has been taking Seroxat for over 17 years and he cannot come off it. He also works within the mental health system as a psychiatrist and he is trying to change things. Maybe you should team up with people like Peter and ask for his input?

That is, of course, if you really are serious about transparency?..

Here is a small sample of his work (and various videos) from his tireless campaigning for transparency on his blog:




A Sunshine Act for Scotland

Over two years ago I raised a petition with the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce a Sunshine Act for Scotland.

The official Scottish Parliament page for my petition can be 
accessed here. This page includes the petition history of PE1493 
and all the written submissions made on behalf of this petition.


A Sunshine Act would make it mandatory for healthcare workers (and hopefully academics and all allied health professionals) to declare fully any payments including payments in kind. The argument I presented was that a single, searchable, independent register underpinned by statute would ensure transparency, promote scientific integrity, reduce the potential for harm and save money

Current Guidance in Scotland (HDL62 issued by the Scottish Government) has failed for more than 13 years. Other governance bodies, such as the Royal Colleges, have separate systems which also appear to have failed to ensure transparency of financial payments. These overlapping, but ineffective systems of governance duplicate costs and bureaucracy to nobody’s gain

My petition was closed earlier this month by the Scottish Parliament as the Scottish Government had committed to “update guidance”.

One of the actions of the Government in response to my petition was to commission a public consultation:

Gathering public views on Sunshine Act

Last week the public voice of Scotland was revealed: the Scottish Public want sunshine:

Majority said mandatory register of financial interests is required

The majority of participants felt that the publication of financial payments to healthcare professionals should be made mandatory. There is substantial evidence from other  countries that the only effective way to make transparency mandatory is to have statutory legislation.

This is a landmark decision in the United Kingdom. By the voices of Scotland.

Of course there is much more to be done which requires energy and light.

However I have faith that the Scottish Government can provide this:


I want to thank a number of people:

◾the participants in the Public Consultation

◾Eleanor Bradford Health Correspondent for the BBC who first 
suggested that I submit a petition to the Scottish Parliament

◾the Petitions Committee and its hard-working and dedicated clerks

◾John Pentland, MSP, former Convener, for being the first 
in Parliament to agree that statutory measures were required

◾Chrys Muirhead, friend, activist, and critical thinker 

◾The President and Vice President of the Royal College 
of Psychiatrists (the College I am member of) for doing 
their very best to improve transparency within the limitations 
of current guidance

Peter - parliament 12 Nov 2013

[above] At Scottish parliament presenting my petition (12th November 2013)



Consultation on payments to doctors is flawed, says psychiatrist
Psychiatrist Peter Gordon at home in Bridge of Allan

Psychiatrist Peter Gordon at home in Bridge of Allan

15 Jan 2016 / Stephen Naysmith, Social affairs correspondent

A CONSULTATION about whether doctors should be forced to declare payments they have received from drug companies is biased, according to the medic whose action led to the move.

Dr Peter Gordon, a former consultant psychiatrist at NHS Forth Valley, has petitioned the Scottish Parliament to introduce a Sunshine Act, which would demand healthcare workers be open about their financial interests related to the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies.

However, he says the Scottish Government’s consultation has presented “unbalanced” information which will not give the public the full picture about the status quo.

NHS staff receive around £38.5 million from the pharmaceutical industry annually, and Dr Gordon estimates up to £4m of this may go to workers in Scotland, with no way to judge whether it has an impact on activities such as prescribing decisions.

Dr Gordon said: “Only a tiny proportion of the £4m known to be paid to healthcare workers by the pharmaceutical industry has been recorded in NHS Scotland registers.

“As petitioner my overwhelming concern is that by presenting unbalanced information the Scottish Government has arranged consultations which will lack in validity.”

After a series of hearings, Holyrood’s petitions committee agreed to commission a public consultation about whether changes were needed to improve transparency for patients and the public.

But Dr Gordon says the consultation, being carried out by the Scottish Health Council (SHC), is not giving people the full facts and could render the process invalid or even look like manipulation.

A briefing being used for the meetings implies that existing rules on transparency may be sufficient and are currently working.

Dr Gordon says that is not the case, and key details have been excluded. “The petition would not have been raised, nor indeed considered by the committee, had it not been for… evidence which has not been provided to the discussion groups,” he said.

He said no NHS Scotland board has fully complied with official government guidance issued in 2003 requiring chief executives to set up registers of interests for all employees including GPs.

Continuing medical education is in some boards entirely supported by sponsors such as the pharmaceutical industry, Dr Gordon said, and patients have no way of knowing if a doctor prescribing drugs has been paid by a drug company or been trained by people who have received such payments.

Dr Gordon added: “If healthcare workers are ‘educated’ by those whose first loyalty is to shareholders, then scientific impartiality may suffer.”

The briefing was prepared for the SHC by the Scottish Government. It says figures from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry show healthcare professionals receive payments for a range of activities including training, clinical trials, media work and market research. An ABPI register of payments is expected to be implemented this year.

A spokesman for the Scottish Health Council said: “One of the key functions of the Scottish Health Council is to ensure that members of the public have the opportunity to give their views on key healthcare issues.

“Following a request from Scottish Government, the Scottish Health Council organised and facilitated a series of discussion groups to gather views from the public on whether there should be a register of interests for NHSScotland.

“Twelve discussion groups have been held around Scotland so far and more are planned to provide further opportunities for people to comment on this issue. People taking part in the discussion groups have been drawn from a range of sources including local community contacts, Public Partnership Forums and voluntary organisations.

“Once the programme of discussion groups is complete, the Scottish Health Council will publish a report on the views gathered.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said Dr Gordon had been given the chance to comment on the consultation before it began and added: “We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the Scottish Health Council work.

“The Scottish Government commissioned this work to gather views on what a robust, transparent and proportionate response to this issue should look like.

“It is important that this is done in the context of existing legislation, the role of professional and regulatory bodies and the significant progress towards voluntary registers by the pharmaceutical industry.”


“”The public have a right to know what that money was for and who received it,
particularly when those involved were influencing what treatments and
medications are used in our hospitals and sugeries.”

He added: “I’m not a whistleblower but I am someone who believes the drugs, medications and treatments doctors use to help patients must be chosen on the basis of scientific evidence, not advertising.

“I could spend forever listing heavily advertised and promoted drugs and treatments hailed as the next best thing only for them to be withdrawn when it was shown they caused harm. That’s what we have to protect against. Transparency is the only way forward.”

An investigation in July revealed health staff in England who help choose drugs for the NHS were paid to work as consultants to pharmaceutical firms.

It found some NHS managers were charging up to £15,000 to organise meetings, sometimes in luxury hotels.

Read more at http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/campaigners-call-action-after-report-6391200#rYOhJGPPQ0VVqVBU.99



  1. kiwi

    “Or in Britain you might go to the doctor and they say actually i’d like to give you this but NICE have said you cant…” Witty at 2.18 mins

    oooooooh nasty really nasty…

    Witty are you referring to the off label pushing and promotion of drugs here…a topic that you know a lot about? You know full well that a doctor would ‘like to give you this’ because you will reward them when they do…right?

    ….maybe what you meant to say was …your doctor will say actually i can get a really big kickback from gsk if i give you this addictive drug thats worse than useless but NICE have said i should behave ethically ….oh what a dilemma i am in.

  2. kiwi

    yep he was deflecting and blithering…
    Just couldnt get over the pdoc who is now in his 17th yr of seroxat use.

    ..Peter Gordon will have a massive unimaginable fight for his life to go through if he ever wants to get off…
    ..Hold on ..he cannot get off…hmmm i wonder why.

    • truthman30

      I know – I think he’s closer to 20 years now though on Seroxat- I can’t imagine what that feels like. He is a good guy, doing loads of great work…

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