Watching this video, I felt appalled by this misuse and abuse of my values. I felt outraged, as a physician, at the utter contempt with which GlaxoSmithKline holds the medical profession. I felt frightened for all of us who consume the products of these corporations.
(Dr Peter Breggin 2012 Huffington Post)
“Four pharmaceutical executives stand with their backs to a darkened Las Vegas auditorium. Smoke machine fog billows at their heels while a platform slowly rotates them to face thousands in the audience. A song from the Space Jam soundtrack plays, stage lights brighten, and suddenly a giant model pill dispenser is revealed on stage. Cue sparklers.
Y’all ready for this?
This is not a parody of corporate conduct. It’s Exhibit 28A, a video (above) uploaded by the Department of Justice last week from court documents pertaining to the “largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.”
The scene itself is from the real and not-so-distant past, at GlaxoSmithKline’s 2001 sales launch for its asthma medication Advair, which the company promoted as first-line therapy for mild asthma patients. The study that conclusion came from, however, had been flatly rejected by the FDA, and later received a black box warning as the result of deaths in halted clinical trials.
The US complaint alleged that GSK continued to market the product as such anyway—as recently as 2010—while providing kickbacks for high-prescribing physicians to boot.2010—while providing kickbacks for high-prescribing physicians to boot.”
Following on from my recent blog post about GSK Whistle-blower Greg Thorpe’s legal complaint (which eventually led to a ‘slap on the wrist’ 3 Billion dollar fine for GSK in 2012), I’d like to delve a little deeper into why this complaint was so important. There were a number of drugs in the complaint which GSK marketed illegally off-label, but because Paxil (Seroxat) was the drug which I was prescribed, I intend to focus on the Seroxat (Paxil) part. The post about Greg Thorpe I did 2 days ago, has had a couple of hundred views already, and I know Glaxo are reading these posts (I can see who views), so I’d like to also say to the GSK spies- how can you continue to work for such an abhorrent company? a company that kills kids for profit…
“…Some estimate that more than 50,000 under-18s in the UK were prescribed Seroxat between 1990, when it was licensed here, and last year when the ban was imposed by Government medical regulators…”
“..Anguished parents have complained that their children became suicidal while on Seroxat then showed horrendous withdrawal symptoms when they tried to come off it…”
As you can see from the exhibit video above, the corporate culture at GSK is all about sales and profits, and as we now know from Greg’s complaint- at GSK- ethics, morals and patients lives -were completely disregarded- for the pursuit of profits. Despite GSK’s claims to the contrary, it is unlikely that GSK’s corporate culture has changed much. They were found guilty of a massive bribery scam in China just last year, and they are currently weathering accusations of similar bribery scams globally. They refuse to engage with those in the UK who were prescribed Seroxat in Europe, despite having paid out millions to damaged consumers in the US.
They continue to deceive their consumers, and patients continue to be damaged from dodgy GSK drugs. Seroxat is just one example.
Has their culture changed much? I don’t think so.
Is Andrew Witty any different to his predecessor JP Garnier?
Not a lot.
Perhaps Andrew Witty is slightly different, in that he comes across as more sincere, humble, and open to change.
However, personally I don’t believe that Witty is any different ethically to JP, he’s just more convincing and less arrogant, and in comparison to JP he seems much more likable, but I think that’s why they chose him- he’s the ‘acceptable face of Big Pharma’ (or not, as the case may be).
If Andrew Witty was serious about changing GSK’s ethics, why has he consistently ignored pleas to meet with Seroxat campaigners over the years?
Seroxat killed kids, and adults too. It continues to kill, and will continue to, until it is taken off the market. Andrew Witty knows this, yet Andrew witty has not uttered one word about Seroxat in public. I just don’t understand how he sleeps at night.
“…The Seroxat User Group, back in 2011, asked for a meeting with GSK’s Andrew Witty. The meeting was an attempt to ask Witty for help on behalf of the thousands of patients suffering severe withdrawal problems at the hands of his company’s antidepressant Seroxat (known as Paxil in the US)
Witty declined, even though Janice Simmons, who operates the Seroxat User Group, had amassed over 60,000 emails from Seroxat patients, most of them are struggling to get off Seroxat…”
How can he claim to be an ethical CEO when he continues to ignore the damage that Seroxat is doing (globally) to people’s lives?
Witty talks the talk, but he certainly doesn’t walk the walk.
His statement at the time was: “
“Whilst these originate in a different era for the company, they cannot and will not be ignored,” he said in the statement. “On behalf of GSK, I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learned from the mistakes that were made.”
Even here, when given the opportunity to apologize for decades of criminal misconduct, Witty chooses to continue to deceive the public and patients alike through his insincere statement. These charges didn’t happen in another era at all. Witty tried to spin it that way to make it seem that so, but this was a lie, and furthermore Witty worked for GSK at a very high level in this ‘era’ therefore he is also implicated in these shenanigans. Calling it another era is clever spin but it doesn’t take the heat away from his own possible involvement, particularly with the drug Wellbutrin/Zyban. Wellbutrin was named in the legal complaint against GSK in the department of justice fine, and Witty, it seems, was involved in Wellbutrin marketing at the time of these allegations, therefore it would suggest that he perhaps knows much more about it than he will ever admit. Of course, he is well protected by lawyers, money, and political connections too, so we won’t see him doing any jail time any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to document GSK’s appalling behavior, and Witty’s part in it all also.
At the end of the day, with Paxil/Seroxat- kids completed suicides, or attempted suicide, and self harmed, because they were prescribed a drug- that they should not have been. GSK illegally marketed Seroxat to kids despite being aware that it was dangerous. How can Andrew Witty reconcile his conscience about this? (that’s if he has one- some claim that CEO’s in these types of organizations are sociopaths therefore they likely don’t have a conscience). It is arguable whether Seroxat should be prescribed to anyone at any age, personally I believe it should be banned.
Of course, Seroxat is dangerous for adults to take too, it is a highly toxic drug, and has caused immeasurable harm. If Witty knows this, but he ignores it then is he also complicit in the deaths and damage to patients and consumers of Seroxat?
Does he have blood on his hands? if the buck stops with the CEO then it stops with Sir Andrew Witty, and surely then the Seroxat Scandal also lands at his door? Does then too, the responsibility for those harmed (children, babies, and adults alike) damaged and killed from Seroxat fall squarely on his shoulders? Who is responsible for the devastation from this abhorrent drug? GSK? Andrew Witty? The MHRA? The FDA? All of them?
I wonder would GSK executives and their lawyers push drugs like Seroxat or Wellbutrin on their own kids if they were depressed, down, or suffering from anxiety over exams, or a teenage break up? Would they give them Seroxat or Wellbutrin? maybe they would…maybe not… but would they warn them of the full side effect profile? and the full dangers?
Because only GSK has access to that information.
Dr David Healy, of the University of North Wales, said: “If the data had been out there from the start, we could have avoided some of the problems we have seen with Seroxat.
“If people had been aware of the evidence from the trials and seen the risks, they could have reduced the risks of adverse events happening. Parents could have been told to keep a closer eye on their children.
Below are excerpts from Greg Thorpe’s Paxil Complaint to the department of Justice. It cannot be underestimated the importance of Greg’s actions. He has undoubtedly saved lives. The fact that GSK knew Paxil (Seroxat) would harm kids, but continued to push it for childhood psychiatric disorders anyhow- should be deeply disturbing and concerning to the whole medical community, and for patients too.
It is now well established that Seroxat is a dangerous drug, but that is too late for Sara Carlin, Sharise Gatchell, Jamie Hoole and the many other Seroxat casualties. When is Mr Witty going to apologize for these deaths, and the destruction and damage to many thousands of families, loved ones and Seroxat survivors?
Dr David Healy (and others) intend to re-examine GSK’s controversial Paxil study 329 and their submission to the BMJ is expected to be revealed soon on this website:
Stewart Dolin had the perfect life. He was married to his high school sweetheart for 36 years. He was the father of two grown children with whom he had a very close and meaningful relationship. He was a senior partner of a large international law firm, managing hundreds of corporate lawyers. He enjoyed his work and derived satisfaction from cultivating relationships with his clients, as well as helping them achieve the results they desired. He enjoyed travel, skiing, dining, joking around with his family and friends and an occasional cigar. He was 57 years old, and high on life.
In the summer of 2010, Stewart developed some anxiety regarding work. He was prescribed Paxil (paroxetine), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (“SSRI”). Stewart’s prescription was filled with a generic version of Paxil, manufactured by Mylan. Within days, Stewart’s anxiety became worse. He felt restless, had trouble sleeping, even asked his wife to listen to a meditation tape with him (hardly typical behavior). He kept saying, “I still feel so anxious.”
On July 15, 2010, (six days after beginning the medication), following a regular lunch with a business associate, Stewart left his office and walked to a nearby train platform. A registered nurse who was also on the platform later reported seeing Stewart pacing back and forth and looking very agitated. As a train approached, Stewart took his own life. This happy, funny, loving, wealthy, dedicated husband and father who loved life left no note and no logical reason why he would suddenly want to end it all. Neither Paxil nor the generic version listed suicidal behavior as a potential side effect for men of Stewart’s age.
We did not know it then, but Stewart was suffering from akathisia.
MISSD (The Medication-Induced Suicide Education Foundation in Memory of Stewart Dolin) is a unique non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the memory of Stewart and other victims of akathisia by raising awareness and educating the public about the dangers of akathisia. MISSD aims to ensure that people suffering from akathisia’s symptoms are accurately diagnosed so that needless deaths are prevented. A website, the creation of educational materials and support of conferences such as Selling Sickness, will help to raise awareness and knowledge of akathisia and medication-induced suicides. Again, we feel it’s important to note that we are not anti-drug, and recognize that prescription drugs can be positive and life-saving for many individuals. We are for truth in disclosure, honesty in reporting and legitimate drug trials.
If this could happen to Stewart, then it could happen to anyone. MISSD will make a difference.
Akathisia is a disorder, induced by SSRI medications, which can cause a person to experience such intense inner restlessness that the sufferer is driven to violence and/or suicide. It has been said, “Death can be a welcome result.” For reasons related to the strong political and lobbying power of pharmaceutical companies, akathisia is rarely explained as a possible side effect of SSRIs, and medical professionals and the general public know very little of the existence of this disorder.
In fact, the drug lobby would like you to believe that akathisia is simply “restless leg syndrome.” As a result, sufferers of akathisia, as well as the medical professionals with whom they consult, are not able to recognize the symptoms of akathisia and therefore take the steps necessary to stop it. This lack of knowledge has tragically resulted in akathisia sufferers taking their own lives, and leaving behind devastated loved ones.
MISSD is not anti-drug. We know that prescription drugs have been life-saving for so many individuals who struggle with mental health issues. We are for truth in disclosure, honesty in reporting and legitimate drug trials.
What should I do?
If you or someone you know is suffering from the symptoms of akathisia, you should tell the doctor who prescribed the drugs, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. MISSD does not give medical advice or counsel (see disclaimer).
According to the FDA:
Consideration should be given to changing the therapeutic regimen, including possibly discontinuing the medication in patients whose depression is persistently worse, or who are experiencing emergent suicidality or symptoms that might be precursors to worsening depression or suicidality, especially if these symptoms are severe, abrupt in onset, or were not part of the patient’s presenting symptoms