In the aforementioned post, I highlighted GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) , who are Britain's biggest drug company, who had just been fined three billion dollars by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA for withholding information and fraud in relation to some of their drugs on sale in that country. Since then, GSK has been accused of illegal activities by the Chinese in the form of attempting to bribe doctors and hospital officials to favour their drugs in preference to the competition. As a consequence of the accusation, GSK's chief executive in China at the time of the alleged wrongdoing has been moved elsewhere within the company. GSK are also under investigation on home soil by the Serious Fraud Office in the UK into the " commercial practices employed by the company and its subsidiaries" .
From interviews that I have seen done with GSK executives, they resent the fact that they appear to have been singled out for special scrutiny in many countries when the standards employed by the competition in order to win business are no better. There is some truth in this. Pfizer, Merck and Abbott Laboratories, for instance, have been fined billions of dollars between them over the last five years by the FDA in connection with their drugs on sale in the USA. In the case of China, GSK probably feel that if they did not employ underhand methods to win market share then an American or continental European drug company would probably use the same or similar tactics.
Should you trust the products of a drug company who have a history of either withholding information or lying about the drugs they sell ? The ethical standards of the top drug companies appear to be much the same as the top banks. The banks have got into trouble with the regulatory authorities over mis-selling, misrepresentation, manipulating the LIBOR rate and breaking sanctions in many countries. We know the banks are only in it for the money, but the idea that the top pharmaceutical companies care about your health is a big lie: they are just using health as a means of making the maximum amount of money possible.
The global publicity created by their past misdeeds have put drug companies on the radar of the regulatory authorities and the police in many countries. There is evidence to suggest that countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Holland,Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Canada and others will not tolerate such behavour in future. Because there is such profits involved, a billion dollar fine for a global pharmaceutical is only like a light slap on the wrist which they can easily absorb. What needs to be done if they are found guilty of either withholding information or fraud, is to fine the company the equivalent of two years profits in relation to the particular jurisdiction involved, as well as jailing the top executives for up to five years.