GlaxoSmithKline Plc, the U.K.’s largest drugmaker, failed to properly warn consumers that its antidepressant drug Paxil could cause birth defects, a lawyer for the family of an injured teenager told jurors. Glaxo officials had research from the 1980s showing Paxil caused deaths among the offspring of animal test subjects and didn’t provide clear warnings about those deaths, Kimberly Baden, a lawyer for Anna Blyth and her family, told a Philadelphia jury. Baden said the drug caused a narrowing of the aorta leading from the heart of Anna, now 14 years old.
A former lawyer for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc has been indicted for lying and obstructing an investigation into the company’s promotion of an anti-depressant drug, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday. The lawyer, Lauren Stevens, was indicted on four counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of falsifying and concealing documents related to Glaxo’s promotion of the drug for weight loss, which had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “Where the facts and law allow, the Justice Department will pursue individuals responsible for illegal conduct just as vigorously as we pursue corporations,” said Tony West, head of the Justice Department’s civil division.
Drug companies say they hire the most-respected doctors in their fields for the critical task of teaching about the benefits and risks of the companies’ drugs.
But an investigation by ProPublica has uncovered hundreds of doctors receiving company payments who had been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists. To vet the industry’s handpicked speakers, ProPublica created a comprehensive database that represents the most accessible accounting yet of payments to doctors. Compiled from disclosures by seven companies, the database covers $257.8 million in payouts since 2009 for speaking, consulting and other duties. The companies include Lilly, Cephalon, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer.
Although these companies have posted payments on their websites — some as a result of legal settlements — they make it difficult to spot trends or even learn who has earned the most. ProPublica combined the data and identified the highest-paid doctors, then checked their credentials and disciplinary records.
Since 2004, pharma has paid over $7 billion in fines and penalties, but even these figures barely dent profits. The $2.3 billion fine Pfizer paid in September 2009 for the way one of its subsidiaries marketed Bextra, the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and three other drugs, was the biggest ever paid by a corporation in the US. Yet the fine was just 14 per cent of $16.8 billion revenue from the drugs from 2001 to 2008, little more than the price of doing business.
Doctors and patients are being misled about the effectiveness of some drugs because negative trial results are not published, experts have warned. Writing in the British Medical Journal, they say that pharmaceutical companies should be forced to publish all data, not just positive findings. The German team give the example of the antidepressant reboxetine, saying publications have failed to show the drug in a true light. Pfizer maintains its drug is effective. Reboxetine (Edronax), made by Pfizer, is used in many European countries, including the UK. But its rejection by US drug regulators raised doubts about its effectiveness, and led some to hunt for missing data. This is not the first time a large drug company has come under fire about its published drug trial data.