Coming hot on the heels of allegations of bribery in China, Iraq Poland, GSK now find themselves investigating yet more claims of bribery, this time it's the turn of Jordan and Lebanon.
Credit where credit is due, GSK are the most consistent pharmaceutical company in the world for giving writers like me something that I can get my teeth into.
The Wall Street Journal [WSJ], who, last week, broke the news about the bribery claims in Iraq, have been sent yet more emails alleging that GSK's employees bribed doctors in Jordan and Lebanon by offering perks such as flexible travel arrangements and free samples that doctors could sell on.
The WSJ are claiming that GSK has launched an internal investigation into its operations in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.
Furthermore, the WSJ reports that GSK were sent emails from 'a person' who alleged that...
"Sales representatives allegedly bribed doctors in Jordan to prescribe Glaxo drugs by issuing free samples that the doctors were then allowed to sell on, according to the emails.
"Glaxo representatives also allegedly permitted Jordanian doctors to bring their spouses on business trips that Glaxo paid for, according to the emails. Doctors were issued with business-class tickets to attend conferences but would exchange them at travel agencies for two economy-class tickets, allowing their spouses or other family members to come along free, a practice local Glaxo employees were aware of, according to the emails."
The emails also allege that GSK sales reps "gave doctors free Synflorix vials as part of an incentive scheme to get them to prescribe the vaccine and not its competitors."
GSK's past era of paying key opinion leaders [KOL's] in the USA also seems to have spread across the middle east as they are accused of to making payments to "key opinion-leader" doctors--influential and leading practitioners in their field--for lectures and other speaking engagements that may not have taken place, the emails allege, in return for them prescribing more Glaxo drugs."
GlaxoSmithKline have issued a statement on their website, which reads...
“GSK can confirm we are investigating allegations regarding the activity of a small number of individuals in our operations in Jordan and Lebanon. We started investigating using internal and external teams as soon as we became aware of these claims. These investigations have not yet concluded.
“We have zero tolerance for unethical or illegal behaviour. We expect our employees to uphold our high standards and we believe the vast majority do so. GSK welcomes and respects people speaking up where they have concerns and we have a number of channels internally to enable them to do this, including hotlines and online portals.
“We implement regular training for employees in compliance matters and we continue to improve compliance processes and procedures wherever we see a need.
“We publicly disclose all cases of misconduct identified in the company. Last year there were 161 violations relating to breaches of our sales and marketing polices, resulting in 48 dismissals and 113 written warnings. These numbers are very similar to those reported by other companies in our sector.
“We are confident in our processes and controls and that we do not have a systemic issue with unethical behaviour in GSK.
“However, we recognise there are concerns regarding interactions between pharmaceutical companies and doctors, particularly related to perceptions of conflicts of interest. That’s why we are the first company to have committed to undertake fundamental reforms to our business model to eliminate this concern by stopping payments to doctors to speak about our products, stopping payments to doctors to attend medical conferences and stopping pay for our sales reps being linked to individual sales targets.”
It's an interesting statement.
Let's just assume that GSK are a person. Take a look at the statement again.
"We publicly disclose all cases of misconduct identified in the company. Last year there were 161 violations relating to breaches of our sales and marketing polices, resulting in 48 dismissals and 113 written warnings. These numbers are very similar to those reported by other companies in our sector."
The above paragraph is quite striking. What GSK are doing here is acknowledging there is a problem within their company but they are deflecting it by saying they are no worse than any other pharmaceutical company.
Saying they publicly disclose all cases of misconducted is, technically, true but they do so with minimum effect.
Glaxo pay millions and millions of dollars to promote their drugs. They also pay millions and millions of dollars to defend litigation brought against them by members of the public harmed by the very same products their senior managers have instructed their sales reps to push onto doctors.
What we have here is a walking, talking psychopathic entity that cannot stop misbehaving - it's ingrained in the culture at GSK and nobody, not even Andrew Witty, can stop the spread of this cancer.
Witty can paint the picture of how GSK are helping millions of people worldwide and how he is behind the "patient first" program but let's face it, there has not been one single cure for cancer... and the cancer that exists at GSK is the type that lays dormant then grows undetected right under their noses. When detected, they claim they have it under control... it's pretty damned obvious that they don't.
If only they could create a drug to stop people bribing others... they have the perfect subjects in-house for a clinical trial.
GSK's company tagline is "Do more, feel better, live longer" - I wonder if this is the mantra senior managers use when training their sales reps?
The WSJ article can be read here.
Witty Plays Down China Scandal
GSK Latest Corruption Scandal in Iraq
GSK - Three Strikes...and You're Still In