Google is famous for its motto of “Don’t be evil.” I’m beginning to wonder if GSK has adopted a motto of “Be evil.” In addition to selling Paxil without adequately warning women that it causes birth defects, GSK also knowingly sold Paxil that it knew wouldn’t do anything to help patients:
In one of the largest False Claims Act cases to date, a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline will plead guilty to charges related to the manufacture and distribution of contaminated drugs at a plant in Puerto Rico and pay $750 million in civil and criminal penalties, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday in Boston.
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The DOJ said SB Pharmco failed to ensure that Kytril and Bactroban were free of contamination from micro-organisms and that the manufacturing process caused Paxil CR tablets to split, raising the possibility that some tablets were useless as therapy. The Avandamet tablets did not always have the mix of ingredients approved by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the DOJ, and the Cidra plant was plagued by production problems that sometimes caused different kinds of tablets to be packages in the same bottles.
Avandamet is another version of Avandia, the drug that has basically been pulled off the market in the U.S. because it is so strongly associated with heart attacks. One wonders whether any heart attacks were caused because of a wrong formulation in batches of Avandamet.
The reason I wrote this post and used the word evil, though, has to do with Paxil. I recently read through the trial transcripts of a Paxil birth defect lawsuit. During the trial, GSK repeatedly argued that people who need Paxil need Paxil and that Paxil is a “miracle drug.” If Paxil really is so critically important to patients, then it’s evil to knowingly sell those patients a bottle of Paxil pills that are useless.
Between the Avandia settlement, the Paxil birth defect settlement, and this new settlement, 2010 is proving to be an expensive year for GSK. Let’s hope that doing evil eventually becomes so expensive that GSK decides it isn’t profitable.