A 35-year-old woman working as a medical representative for a GlaxoSmithKline
regional sales manager in China has revealed that “she entered doctors’ offices to act as their assistant, and meet their needs as much as possible, even their sexual desires.”
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a British multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in London, United Kingdom and it can’t keep a lid on a bribery scandal in China that continues to expand with 18 more of its employees arrested 2 days ago.
Ms. Wang stated that “GSK China’s executives already knew this and some executives
gave clear directives to the sales department to offer bribes to doctors with
money or opportunities to attend academic conferences.”
The official Xinhua news agency also interviewed Mr. Li, who was her GSK regional sales
manager and he detailed how the corruption worked.
“They invited doctors to join high-end academic conferences to help the practitioners increase influence in their fields. They also established good personal relations with
doctors by catering to their pleasures or offering them money, in order to make them prescribe more drugs.”
Many doctors got money even when the lectures did not exist; Ms. Wang
would just forge lecture materials in order to obtain reimbursements from
The overall GSK plan was to offer bribes to doctors, asking them to prescribe more drugs in order to grow sales volume, and also push up drug prices.
This scandal began around July 15th when the Chinese police arrested four senior GSK executives in China and prevented GSK’s finance director Steve Nechelput from leaving the country.
Mark Reilly, the head of GSK in China had already left for London by the time his 4 subordinates were arrested. He has since been replaced by Hervé Gisserot, the drug company’s vice president for Europe. China has asked for Mr. Reilly to return to China presumably to answer a few questions about his tenure there.
Gao Feng, head of China’s fraud unit, accused GSK of creating a network of 700 middlemen and travel agencies to bribe doctors with cash and sexual favors in return for prescribing GSK rugs. The cash spent on bribes is stated to be 3 billion yuan ($492 million
He says the police now have evidence that bribery has been a “core part” of GSK China’s business model since 2007. One of the executives arrested explained that these bribes increased Chinese consumer cost of GSK drugs by up to 30%.
In a display of dubious ethics seen all too often in drug companies that produce psychiatric drugs, GSK Chief Executive Sir Andrew Witty stated that the head office “had no knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing” and that the alleged behavior is “totally contrary to GSK’s values.”
Witty was quoted as saying GSK was “absolutely committed to rooting out corruption and we are absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of what has happened”.
It seems impossible that Sir Witty had no knowledge of the bribes as “The New York Times” reported it had viewed an internal audit in which GSK was warned in November 2011 about serious problems in its Chinese research and development facilities including a claim that GSK failed to release the results of a drug trial on mice when the company had already moved on testing the drug on humans.
GSK epitomizes a drug company bent on profits with no scruples about obeying the law or caring if it harms those who are prescribed its products.
Two of their most lucrative drugs are Wellbutin and Paxil. Wellbutin is
an antidepressant which supposedly treats depression or aids in quitting smoking. It supposedly prevents depression caused by the questionable diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) Paxil claims to work for seven or so types of disorders dreamed up by psychiatrists.
Both drugs of these dangerous drugs were in the news just over a year ago in what the Justice Department called “the largest health-care fraud settlement in U.S. history” GlaxoSmithKline pled guilty to charges of illegally marketing drugs and keeping back safety data from US regulators and paid the government $3 billion dollars.
Similar to the pattern emerging in China, GSK gave doctors perks – free spa treatments, Colorado ski trips, pheasant-hunting jaunts to Europe and Madonna concert tickets.
GSK unlawfully promoted Paxil for patients under 18 when the drug wasn’t approved by the FDA for non-adults. Also, Glaxo helped prepare an article published in a medical journal in 2001 that falsely reported Paxil had proven effective at treating depression in children in a clinical trial, when the trial showed nothing like this.
GSK also illegally promoted Wellbutrin—approved solely to treat depression—for other uses, including weight loss, treatment of sexual dysfunction, substance addiction and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The government stated “Glaxo sales representatives sometimes referred to Wellbutrin as ‘the happy, horny, skinny pill’ as a way to remind doctors of the unapproved uses.”
Sir Andrew Witty announced last summer at the time of this $3 billion dollar settlement “We’re determined this is never going to happen again.”
Hopefully this GSK scandal will encourage the Chinese government to take back the invitation they gave to western psychiatric drug manufacturers to market such “medicine” in their country.
Reuters reported the Xinhua news agency saying a few days ago “It will not be surprising if more pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, domestic or international, are to be involved in probes in the days to come.”
Investigations into other western companies have already begun.
The police questioned two more AstraZeneca employees in Shanghai, just days
after detaining one of its sales representatives. Authorities have also visited the offices of Belgian drug maker UCB. Astellas and Sandoz , now a subsidiary of Novartis, are also to be investigated. All of these companies manufacture and sell psychiatric drugs and have been involved in lawsuits regarding the marketing of them.
Chinese medicine and healing techniques are over 5,000 years old; the first psychiatric drugs were created less than 60 years ago with no cures recorded to date. Perhaps
Chinese wisdom will shine through and GSK will be asked to leave.