14 Documents From GlaxoSmithKline's $3 Billion Drug Marketing Scandal That Will Disgust You

dr drew pinskyDr. Drew Pinsky.

Photo: Wikimedia, CC.

GlaxoSmithKline paid $3 billion to end an investigation by the Department of Justice into its illegal marketing of the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin, and the diabetes drug Avandia. The payment—the largest ever in drug marketing—is accompanied by criminal convictions for the company.The deal also reveals the DOJ’s evidence against the company, collected over more than a decade, dating back to the late 1990s.

Among that evidence:

  • GSK promoted Paxil for children when in fact it can cause suicidal behaviour in kids.
  • GSK promoted Wellbutrin as a sex drug and TV’s Dr. Drew Pinsky was on the company’s payroll.
  • And GSK gave lavish vacations and “speaking fees” to doctors who agreed to promote the drugs to their colleagues.

Here’s the story of how GSK promoted these drugs, told through documents filed in court by the DOJ.

In 2001, GSK considered withholding a study that showed Paxil caused suicidality and violent feelings in teenagers because it coincided with the Columbine shooting tragedy, according to the complaint. One of the shooters was on Luvox, a different antidepressant.

The FDA has always been clear about Paxil: It has never been approved for children and was specifically rejected for children in 2003 and 2004.

Yet GSK went right ahead and marketed it for kids anyway, the DOJ's complaint states.

By as late as 2005, GSK had a list of 5,800 child psychiatrists prescribing Paxil to kids, of which 1,424 were child psychiatry specialists, the DOJ says.

To promote Paxil, GSK wined and dined doctors in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, treating them to golf, deep sea fishing, rafting and balloon rides, the DOJ alleges.

Wellbutrin is only approved to treat depression, but GSK promoted it as a sex drug, the DOJ's complaint says.

Here's how GSK's PR agency, Cooney Waters, spun Wellbutrin to the U.K. tabloid The Sun:

Cooney Waters paid TV's Dr. Drew Pinsky $175,000 to hype the drug. This is the first payment of $100,000 ...

... here's the second one for $175,000.

This is what GSK got for its money: Dr. Drew hyped Wellbutrin as a sex drug:

Doctors were paid $12,000 for giving six hours of presentations to other doctors promoting the drug.

Sponsored talks for Wellbutrin included such educational aspects as boat trips and sightseeing jaunts, the DOJ claims.

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