Legal Environment of Business
3 April 2013
GlaxoSmithKline: Ethics and Clinical Thinking
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is known around the world for many of its home health products and a good number of the prescription drugs that are in our medicine cabinets. GSK is a global healthcare company. They focus on the discovery, development, manufacturing, and marketing of pharmaceutical and consumer health-related products. A brief history of the company, according to the Marketline report GlaxoSmithKline: Through Mergers and acquisitions to success, begins with a man named Joseph Nathan who founded a company called Glaxo in 1873 as a general trading company that first manufactured a vitamin D supplement called Ostelin in 1924. Glaxo entered the US pharmaceutical market in 1978, and acquired a smaller company – Wellcome – in 1995. John K. Smith opened his first drugstore in 1830 to grow into what was called Smith, Kline & Company in 1875 after which merged with Beecham Research Laboratories, and formed SmithKline Beecham in 1989. (Marketline) Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham finally merged together in 2000 to form the global health care giant GlaxoSmithKline. GSK has a wide reaching global presence with offices in 115 countries worldwide focusing on three primary areas of business: pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and consumer health care. Their products are used by millions of people around the world, helping them to do more, feel better and live longer. Currently GSK provides 90 different pharmaceuticals either directly to the market or in different stages of testing, 25 vaccines, and 57 OTC consumer health products. Many familiar products include Aquafresh® toothpaste, Breathe Right® strips, and Sensodyne®. In addition, GSK spends over $6 billion per year in research developing new products for just the pharmaceutical business. In fact, GSK is the world’s largest research and development spender. According to GlaxoSmithKline’s Annual Report, in any given day GSK has over 15,000 scientists in 26 research centers globally doing groundbreaking work on over 65 million compounds every year that may become the new drugs of tomorrow. (GlaxoSmithKline) As of January 2012, GSK had 8 new drugs approvals along with 6 others awaiting approvals. 16 other new drugs were in their final stages of clinical trials. Over 85% of their annual revenues come from pharmaceutical and consumer health care.
The Billion Dollar Mistake
GlaxoSmithKline began to see many of the different drugs it produced being prescribed by doctors all over the world. Soon, many of the drugs gained “blockbuster” status because of the success and popularity of the drugs. Many studies and seminars were commissioned to promote the uses of new and improved drugs as breakthroughs in modern medicine. In certain cases, experts would be brought in to explain to doctors many of the benefits of these new drugs and the ways in which doctors could prescribe them to patients. With the increased success of these drugs, there came more and more pressure to beef up the uses for these drugs and also short side the risks involved with taking them as well. The more GSK sponsored these studies and seminars, the harder it became for critics of the proposed uses for these drugs to get out their messages to potential prescribing physicians. The three major drugs involved in this practice were Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Avandia.
Paxil is an antidepressant used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety. GSK illegally marketed this drug for use in children and teens when it had not been approved for use in this manner by the FDA. Alexandra Sifferlin points out in her article Breaking Down GlaxoSmithKline’s Billion-Dollar Wrongdoing, GSK hired a company that prepared a medical journal short-selling the safety risks of suicide in children and teens, and misrepresented data to enhance positive aspects of the study....
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