GlaxoSmithKlein – an endemic culture of fraud?

GSK the UK pharmaceutical to deodorant company is fast making a name for itself with brand values that include bribery, fraud and corruption, plus a fair smattering of junk science thrown in for good measure.

You would think that one bribery case would be enough to force the board to review its whole business strategy worldwide – especially as getting caught in America was extremely serious. The criminal fraud case involved a variety of drugs and issues such as making false claims, ‘exaggerating’ research conclusions, telling lies and bribery. That case in America cost them $3 billion plus change. Well, it was the largest fraud case in medical history. At this point, most boards of companies would be looking at themselves and putting ‘best practice’ into place to avoid any chance of a repetition.

But it doesn’t seem quite like this at GSK. Over the past months allegations of fraud, bribing doctors and even sex scandals have emerged in the great frontier market of China. A whistleblower sent an e mail in January alleging that doctors were sent expensive gifts and even cash. They would be invited to attend conferences, which were really all-expenses-paid holidays. (Isn’t this exactly what happens in Europe and America?). And payments were allegedly channeled through a ‘travel agency’ business. Hardly dodgy at all, really.

After a Private detective, Peter Humphrey, hired by GSK to investigate a smear campaign against them, reported that he thought claims might well be true and he himself was jailed this week for buying and selling private information, the likely outcome in China looks not much better than it did in America. Chinese authorities have filed criminal charges of bribery, corruption and fraud against Mark Reilly, the former head of GSK operations in China with the Serious Fraud Squad crawling all over the company – the UK is now helping their Chinese counterparts.

Such allegations, if proven, would also bring the American Authorities back into play. The US Dept. of Justice is now looking into possible breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Britain may also investigate as it has a new ‘Bribery Act’.

But now GSK faces new corruption claims in Syria where it is alleged to have bribed doctors and officials to drive sales. Of course, there are some that would say that GSK was just being caught up in politics, given the war and views on Britain held locally. But then GlaxoSmithKlein is also being investigated for bribery in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Poland.

GSK has issued a statement saying that they are ‘committed to taking disciplinary actions’ if guilt is proven and that they have ‘zero tolerance’ of unethical behavior. One wonders quite who it is that has the ‘zero tolerance’?

And isn’t this all huff and puff? Par for the course? Peter C. Gotzsche, a Danish Medical researcher and leader of the prestigious Nordic Cochrane Centre has written a complete review of the atrocities that Big Pharma routinely get up to in his book, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma has Corrupted Healthcare (first published 2013; ISBN 9781846198847). You can guess the atrocities he talks about. Anyone with an open mind knew them long ago.

We have covered GSK in Junk Science before – that time they had been in top medical journal, BMJ, with the finding that 80% of flu vaccine research did not hold up to proper scrutiny.

We also covered this: Just a decade ago Dr. Allen Roses the worldwide Vice President of genetics and a top executive of the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline stated simply that “The vast majority of drugs – more than 90% – only work in 30 to 50% of the people.”

Isn’t that the crux of the problem? If GSK made wonderful drugs that worked for the majority of people, why would doctors need to be bribed to use them? Maybe the drugs aren’t that wonderful; and/or maybe all the competitors are playing the same games too?

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Big Pharma bias and inaccurate conclusions in vaccine research

The conclusions drawn in over 80 per cent of flu vaccine global research studies did not hold up to objective scrutiny, according to a report in the BMJ, March 2014. Huge inaccuracy levels like these rightly fuel serious skeptic concerns that flu vaccine benefits are often hyped.

The BMJ study, which looked at some 274 comparative studies on flu vaccination, found that only a mere 18 per cent of the studies were deemed to actually prove what the articles claimed to be their findings!

The better the quality of the study the more likely the study was to prove what was claimed.

However,

1.The size of the study was not linked to accuracy of conclusions.

2.Nor were more citations. Actually they were linked to partial or complete industry funding. And then these are more likely to be found in more prestigious journals.

The BMJ report stated that, “Studies partly or completely sponsored by industry, however, were published in more prestigious journals and are probably cited more, although their methodological quality and size were similar. Some of these findings might help to explain the continuation of a near global policy, (to flu vaccination), despite growing doubts as to its scientific basis”.

While “70% of the studies reported conclusions favourable to the vaccines … only 18% showed complete concordance between data reported and study conclusions. Over half (56%) of studies were at high risk of bias, with only 4% being at low risk”.

Given that doctors and other healthcare professionals have little time and tend to ‘flick read’ little more than the top line conclusions, a figure of 18 per cent accuracy is cause for great concern. But worse, the appearance in ‘trustworthy’ prestigious publications is more to do with funding by interested companies than accuracy.

And worse still, many of the studies are then re-quoted, and/or used to substantiate others. It’s self-perpetuating medical mythology.

Tom Jefferson, lead author said, “The study shows that one of the levers for accessing prestigious journals is the financial size of your sponsor. Pharmaceutical sponsors order many reprints of studies supporting their products, often with in-house translations into many languages. They will also purchase publicity space on the journal. Many publishers openly advertise these services on their website.”

Ref: BMJ 2009;338:b354

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/338/feb12_2/b354

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