Who’s Afraid Of Sidney Wolfe? : GSK Tops Corruption Scales With 7.56 Billion In Penalties And Fines Since 1991

Corrupt and Criminal Pharmaceutical Companies


Not everyone is convinced by their public show of goodwill. In his regular column, Sidney Wolfe, founder and senior adviser in the Health Research Group at Public Citizen, in Washington analysed all civil and criminal penalties paid to the US federal and state governments by pharmaceutical companies from January 1991 through 18 July 2012.

“GSK topped the list of repeat offenders with total criminal and civil penalties of $7.56bn since 1991, comprised six different federal settlements and an additional number with states,” he wrote.

But it seems as though bad news follows the company as they try to build its image. Following investigations in China and Iraq, Shelley Jofre, BBC Panorama correspondent, has found that GSK is under investigation in Poland for allegedly bribing doctors there.

In a feature, she writes that it’s alleged that GSK sales reps in the region of Lodz, Poland’s third largest city, paid doctors as recently as 2012 to boost prescriptions of some of the company’s best known drugs.

A spokesman for the Lodz public prosecutor’s office, Krzysztof Kopania, said that one GSK regional manager and 11 doctors have been charged in connection with corruption allegations for offences committed in 2010-12.

In response, GSK said: “Following receipt of allegations regarding the conduct of the programme in the Lodz region, GSK has investigated the matter, using resources from both inside and outside the company,” the company added. “The investigation found evidence of inappropriate communication in contravention of GSK policy by a single employee. The employee concerned was reprimanded and disciplined as a result. We continue to investigate these matters and are co-operating fully with the CBA [the anti-corruption bureau in Poland].”

Whilst such problems arise, GSK’s ability to shake off past reputation and build one of trust and scientific integrity, might be made that bit tougher.

Deborah Cohen is investigations editor, The BMJ.

Sidney Wolfe