The Fox Guarding the Hen House: Outgoing GSK Chief to Head New UK Government Agency Fast Tracking the Licensing of Pharma Products
The really scary news is the news you do not see reported. If eyebrows were raised last week that GSK’s head of Research and Development, Patrick Vallance, was to leave his highly paid position to become Chief Scientist to the British government, it was barely reported the same day that the British government has also appointed his former boss, Sir Andrew Witty, to head a new agency to fast track the licensing of pharmaceutical products. Witty left his post as CEO of GSK earlier this year and has already taken up a role with North Carolina biotech company, G1 Therapeutics. Witty became CEO of GSK in 2008, having joined Glaxo in 1985, while GSK was formed in a merger with SmithKline Beecham in 2001.
As reported in Wikipedia:
On 2 July 2012, GSK pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to a $3 billion settlement of the largest health-care fraud case in the U.S. and the largest payment by a drug company. The settlement is related to the company's illegal promotion of prescription drugs, its failure to report safety data, bribing doctors, and promoting medicines for uses for which they were not licensed. The drugs involved were Paxil, Wellbutrin, Advair, Lamictal, and Zofran for off-label, non-covered uses. Those and the drugs Imitrex, Lotronex, Flovent, and Valtrex were involved in the kickback scheme….
In July 2013, the People's Republic of China announced that they were investigating allegations of fraud perpetrated by GSK going back to 2007 and involving thousands of millions of renminbi… Four GSK executives have already been arrested in China. It is alleged that the money was used, inter alia, to bribe around 25 travel agencies that organize conferences for doctors, in order to encourage the agencies to host GSK events. Witty later claimed that he knew nothing about the China fraud and tried to pass the blame onto subordinates…
In November 2015 Witty's leadership of GSK was criticised by Neil Woodford, who said that "he’s not doing a very good job". Woodford called for GSK to be split into four companies… In March 2016 Witty announced that he was to stand down as chief executive
In April 2017 GSK lost a $3m action when Wendy Dolin sued them for her husband’s suicide after taking the anti-depressant Paxil (which is the same as Seroxat), after presenting a technical defence. Among GSK’s other products are the controversial vaccines Cervarix, Infanrix Hexa and Pandemrix. The Cervarix vaccine was marketed without any certainty that it could prevent cervical cancer and is associated with a high level of injury. Infanrix Hexa has been implicated by Jacob Puliyel in excess infant deaths, and the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine has caused narcolepsy. An early trial for Pandemrix left a trail of unexplained deaths. The pre-cursor to GSK, SKB also manufactured the Pluserix MMR vaccine which was withdrawn in Canada and later the UK because of cases of mumps meningitis.
Witty has for a long time enjoyed close relations with the British government: he was lead non-executive board member of the Department of Trade (BIS) between 2011 and 14, and is a “business ambassador” for the present Prime Minister.
Slow or fast, licensing is already over deferential to the industry, but even if GSK had had an unimpeachable record - instead of a nightmare one - the appointment would still be outrageous.
With acknowledgments to Truthman's blog.