Tuesday, 3 July 2012

B’org Drug Pusher Fined $3 Billion

The news is that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been caught red-handed in a drug fraud scandal by illegally marketing some of its products.  Do more, feel better, live longer.  That’s the punch line for this giant pharmaceutical company.  You could possibly do more, feel better, and live longer by using products produced by GSK, but I’d wager that even at the best of times, you won’t do more, feel better and live longer at the same time.

I call GlaxoSmithKline a B’org Drug Pusher.  They are aggressively pushing pharmaceuticals instead of whole foods.

Paroxetine, a B’org of Food Antidepressant

Let’s look at just how scandalous this is by zooming in on one of the ten drugs involved in this case that makes it particularly disturbing.  The drug at the centre of the scheme, Paroxetine, also known by the trade names Aropax, Paxil (GSK product in the US), Seroxat (in the UK), and Sereupin, was eventually banned for use by children because it can make them suicidal.

“Prosecutors said GlaxoSmithKline illegally promoted the drug Paxil for treating depression in children from April 1998 to August 2003, even though the FDA never approved it for anyone under age 18” (USA Today).  However, GSK did test this drug on children and on May 22, 2003, submitted an analysis to the FDA that showed a “statistically significant increase” in suicide related adverse events with paroxetine treatment, compared to placebo.  No wonder the FDA didn’t approve it, but GSK still got away with selling it for five years!  How many kids out there has this affected?

Paroxetine is a selective serotonin uptake inhibitor (SSRI) and I wrote about SSRI’s and some of the side effects in another article about the antidepressant called Citalopram (which is the most popular SSRI drug in the UK).  Besides nausea, sexual dysfunction and the others mentioned in my article (and also at the end of this article), paroxetine is likely to cause clinically significant weight gain and an increased risk of birth defects.  Finally, this drug has a high risk of withdrawal symptoms being severe, making it highly addictive.

The B’org Profits

The $3 billion fine will be the largest penalty ever paid by a drug company, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said.  Besides the token expenditure for government officials to monitor the corporation for five years in an “attempt to ensure the company's compliance”, I wonder where all that money is going to go!  And where’s the incentive to make sure it doesn’t happen again when it pays so nicely when it does?

How is it that these drugs are such money makers?  In the US, in 2007, 90% of seniors and 58% of non-elderly adults relied on a prescription medicine on a regular basis.  That’s nearly everyone over the age of 65 and more than half of the rest of the adults in the US!!!  Here’s some more information from Kaiser EDU.org to show why pushing drugs is so profitable:

·        Increased utilization and demand for prescription drugs - From 1999 to 2009, the number of prescriptions purchased in the United States increased 39%, while the population only grew 9%.
·        Types of prescriptions written – Most of the top-selling prescriptions are newer, higher-priced brand name drugs that have replaced older, less-expensive drugs.
·        Price increases - Retail prescription prices have increased on average 3.6% annually between 2000 and 2009, much faster than the average inflation rate of 2.5%.
·        Research and Development – Manufacturers try to recoup the research and development costs for drugs that make it to the market as well as those that do not enter the marketplace. Only one in five drugs that make it to the clinical testing process receive FDA approval and are brought to market (hence the temptation to go ahead without them).
·        Advertising and Marketing - Pharmaceutical manufacturers make substantial investments on marketing to consumers and physicians, which may (of course it does!) influence consumer demand and physician prescribing practices.  Furthermore, the most heavily advertised products tend to be newer, more expensive drugs. This results in overall increases in spending.

I forgot to mention in my article about the cost of antidepressants in the UK that not only has the net ingredient cost come down over the last ten years and the number of prescriptions has substantially increased, but the price that is paid by the consumer in the UK at the pharmacy has gone up (from 20p to £5.80 from 1979 – 1999, to £6.65 in 2006, £6.85 in 2007, £7.10 in 2008, £7.20 in 2010, £7.40 in 2011, and currently £7.65 in 2012) although in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland prescriptions have been free since 2007, 2010 and 2011 respectively, and people with cancer living in England do not pay for prescriptions since 2009.  Regardless of prescriptions being free to many people in the UK, the price paid by the NHS for prescriptions has risen. From 1998 to 2008, the NHS drugs bill soared from £4bn to £8.2bn a year, so Big Pharma is making a big profit in the UK as well as the US.

Available Online?

So much for all the health warnings and legal hoopla.  At the time of originally writing this article, it was possible for anyone to go online and buy Paroxetine in 10mg up to 40mg tablets from pharmacies in the US! (used to be available from the website BuyParoxetine.com which as of 14/5/14 is for sale for a mere $2,,795, but perhaps there are others, I haven't checked).   That website made Paroxetine available to anyone, with no prescription required, no questions asked and World Wide Shipping!

The above source cited the side effects as set out below.  I particularly like the “and so on” at the end.  If only everyone would take control of their health, the B’org of Food would be defeated.  I live in hope.

“The common paroxetine's side effects are: drowsiness, insomnia, tremor, nervousness, hypererethism of central nervous system, amnesia, dizziness, ophthalmalgia, ear noise, fainting, tachycardia and bradycardia, stomatitis, arthralgia, arthritis, dysuria, polyuria and so on.”

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