Back in October 2015, GSK CEO Andrew Witty had an interesting discussion with Evan Davis (from the BBC’s Newsnight).
For the majority of the interview Witty waffled on his usual script about how fantastic GSK are, and how their new ethical branding is at the cutting edge of health care etc, however in the last segment the tone changed dramatically.
Davis grilled Witty with some damning questions about the unpopularity of the pharmaceutical industry and about GSK ‘bribing doctors’ etc.
Witty looked extremely uncomfortable and did his bumbling best to deflect Davis’s awkward questions but his finely crafted showmanship fell flat and despite his slick performance at the beginning- in the end segment- he came across as little more than a GSK PR puppet.
Witty it seems, is well versed in GSK’s corporate mantras, but severely lacking in sincere humaneness. He came across as someone who would defend the indefensible (for a huge pay packet and perks of course) and maybe that’s why he got the job as CEO in the first place?
He is, after all, a sales man, and a marketing man, who grafted his way up the corporate ladder- to the top of GSK- over 25 year period. How ruthless would an individual have to be to do that?
You can watch Witty’s performance on Youtube (video above), and it’s very interesting, if only even as just a mere example of how these big corporations wriggle and squirm their way out of any accountability for the crimes that they commit (and in doing so- also- the harm that they cause innocent people- their customers- in the process).
I recently came across a Q and A segment from the Chapham House website, it’s not part of the original video intereview and seems only to be in text format.
Nonetheless, it’s also very interesting in parts.
Particularly this bit:
Building on the last question a bit, but perhaps from a slightly more generic point of view, you talked about the breakdown of trust and eroding trust in big pharma, in big business generally, in institutions around the world.
What does a leader do to restore that trust?
I think you have to try harder. I think a lot of it is around resilience, because no doubt, when you’re in an industry and I think in any big business where there is challenge, where actually, rightly, you don’t need to have a bloc vote to be heard anymore in this world, right?
You need a Twitter account. You need a way of getting your message around. That’s a good thing but it definitely creates a kind of pressure, so you need resilience.
You need to have a point of view, a point of view which is beyond this week, this quarter. A point of view which is, in my view, multi stakeholder and more and more critically global. I think for a lot of the established global companies, the reality is we’ve been American and Western Europe. The world is rapidly becoming much more than America and Western Europe. So you have to absolutely be thinking about, what’s important to China? What’s important to India?
Where is China going to go, how is it going to open up its western villages and rural areas? What does it need?
How is India going to democratize its health care system? Those are the big elements you have to think about.
Then you have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth. The criticism is difficult. When things go wrong, it’s obvious, nobody likes to be in a situation when things go wrong. It’s much harder to make the positive change, because actually what you’re doing is you’re standing up in front of your organization, in front of your shareholders, in front of everybody who’s got used to the business model that exists whether they consciously did that or unconsciously, they’re used to the status quo ante. Then you’ve got to stand up and say: I’m going to change all that. Actually that’s the most difficult part, and that’s where you have to be deter mined, resilient and really believe in what you’re trying to drive forward. Hopefully, you generate quick wins, quickly, to give yourself and everybody else confidence you’re moving forward.
The first thing you have to ask yourself though is, is this a messaging problem that people are not liking, or is it a problem problem that people are not liking? In some of these cases, it has been a public distrust of a lot of people and a kind of distrust in these anonymous big corporations. But some of it has been
It’s back to this issue of things like transparency. There’s no question that there is a substance issue there which
It’s not the PR that’s bad, it’s the behaviour.
Again, if you look at our response, we have not, I think, tried to PR our way out of this.
No, the way you get the trust is to behave in a trustworthy way.
There’s no shortcuts.
Exactly. If you look at what we’ve done, we’ve changed our commitment to transparency. We’ve changed the IP model. When I stood up and said we’re going to liberalize our IP model for the developing world, people thought I was nuts. People actually wrote to me and said, you are going to destroy the pharmaceutical industry doing this. You know what, the sun still comes up in the morning, even though we figured out there was a different way to manage IP in Africa and the LDCs.
So you have that.
We’ve changed the way our salesforces are managed. People said that’s the end of the world. It’s not. People said doctors won’t speak on your behalf if you don’t pay them. Actually, they will.
Half of the physicians will speak on our behalf. People said you can’t focus on development of medicines which don’t have an economic return. You can. Those are all substantive elements of the business model which we hope, over time
Over time, in ten years, if you keep it up, people will say, they’re not so bad
I find this exchange between Andrew Witty and Evan Davis extraordinary, it’s as if they are having two different conversations.
Witty is so immersed in GSK’s marketing PR delusions that he fails to see what Davis is trying to say to him. It’s no use claiming to be ethical when you behave unethically. Under Witty’s tenure GSK paid 3 Billion in fines to the US department of Justice in 2012, and the China Bribe Scandal in 2014 happened directly under his leadership.
Witty has never once apologized for the Seroxat Scandal, or multitudes of other scandals that GSK have been embroiled in (and continue to be embroiled in) over the years, therefore, for Witty to claim that GSK have somehow redeemed themselves through a few shallow half baked PR token gestures- in regards to the many decades of fraud, bribery, lies and unethical profiteering (leading to the deaths and harm of thousands of people) is absurd and ridiculous.
Evan Davis called Andrew Witty out on his Bullshit, and I wish more people would..
I was harmed by a GSK drug- Seroxat- as were many others- many of them now friends of mine….
I have at least 40 years left on this planet… and no amount of shallow PR from GSK will stop me from drawing attention to it.
The Seroxat Scandal is an example of the epitome of corporate evil in this world and people like Andrew Witty make millions by playing their part in this pharmaceutical harm to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people, year after year. The Big Pharma’s between them kill tens of thousands every year. A lot of it is from defective substandard drugs, and a lot of it is from shoddy trials, hidden outcomes, and some is from just plain lies and deceit.
Witty is well aware of this…
How he sleeps soundly at night, is beyond my comprehension…
Prescription Drugs Are Killing Us – Meet One Doctor (Out Of Many) Who Just Published A Paper About It
The most recent example of this kind of corruption in relation to antidepressants comes from a study that was published last week in the British Medical Journal by researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen. The study showed that pharmaceutical companies were not disclosing all information regarding the results of their drug trials:
[This study] confirms that the full degree of harm of antidepressants is not reported. They are not reported in the published literature, we know that – and it appears that they are not properly reported in clinical study reports that go to the regulators and from the basis of decisions about licensing. (source)
Researchers looked at documents from 70 different double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and found that the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports went unreported. These are the reports sent to major health authorities like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Tamang Sharma, a PhD student at Cochrane and lead author of the study, said:
We found that a lot of the appendices were often only available upon request to the authorities, and the authorities had never requested them. I’m actually kind of scared about how bad the actual situation would be if we had the complete data. (source)
This is not the first time that pharmaceutical companies have been caught manipulating science in order to get antidepressants onto the shelves. It was only a couple of months ago that an independent review found that the commonly prescribed antidepressant drug Paxil (paroxetine) is not safe for teenagers, even though a large amount of literature had already suggested this previously. The 2001 drug trial that took place, funded by GlaxoSmithKline, found that these drugs were completely safe, and used that ‘science’ to market Paxil as safe for teenagers.
Gotzche’s two main areas of focus are antidepressants and “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory” painkillers like ibuprofen, tylenol, celecoxib, and diclofenac. Another is Vioxx, which was actually withdrawn after it was discovered that it caused more than 100,000 cases of serious heart disease in the United States during the five years that it was on the market.
According to Gotzche, these deaths are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the failure of the drug regulatory process to protect patients:
These terms for our drugs are invented by the drug industry. They had a huge financial interest in calling these things anti-inflammatory. It lured doctors into believing that these drugs somehow also had an effect on the disease process and reduced the joint damage.
In his paper he also notes that antidepressants have replaced drugs that were found to be harmful, like Valium and Xanax, but are just as addictive and their side effects just as dangerous.
According to Professor Gotzsche, here’s a list of things you want to avoid:
- Antidepressants for all, because they probably don’t work for severe cases of depression
- All brain-active drugs in children
- Anti-psychotics and other brain-active drugs for the elderly. Psychotropic drugs should be used as little as possible and mostly in very acute situations, as they are very harmful when used long term
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for arthritis, muscle pain and headaches, including over-the-counter, low dose ibuprofen. These drugs should be used as little as possible
- Mammography screening, as it doesn’t prolong life whereas it makes many healthy women ill through over diagnosis and leads to the premature death for some because radiotherapy and chemotherapy increases mortality when used for harmless cancers detected at screening.
- Drugs for urinary incontinence, as they very likely don’t work
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.” – Dr. Richard Horton, the current Editor-In-Chief of the Lancet (source)
Here is a great video that I share in most of my articles that have to do with this topic. It’s a clip of Dr. Peter Rost, a former vice president of Pfizer and a whistleblower of the pharmaceutical industry. Author of “The Whistleblower, Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman,” Rost is an insider expert on big pharma marketing.