Blogging Since 2006

Blogging Since 2006
WHEN INJUSTICE BECOMES LAW, RESISTANCE BECOMES DUTY

Monday, October 22, 2012

In Defence of Glaxo: Stephen Whitehead Speaks Out

ABPI CEO, Stephen Whitehead


Friend and fellow advocate RC over at Seroxat Secrets alerted my attention to a recent post in the New Statesman where the wheels of PR have kicked in and underplayed Glaxo's history of abhorrent behaviour.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's CEO, Stephen Whitehead, felt the need to contact the New Statesman after a review by Helen Lewis of Ben Goldacre's new book, Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients. 

I've not read Goldacre's book yet, ordering from Amazon when one lives in New Zealand is like waiting for a bus that never arrives. I will, however, obtain a copy at some point.

What's striking about Whitehead's letter to the New Statesman is his defence of British company GlaxoSmithKline, let's not forget that Glaxo are not American or a Japanese corporation, they are British so any actions, be they good or bad, blemish the the Union Jack flag.

Whitehead, just like Glaxo CEO, Andrew Witty, blames nobody but a bygone era, further adding that pharmaceutical companies being fined "...are all examples from the US and simply not relevant to the UK market."

Oh gee, and there was me thinking that Glaxo's cancerous corruption was worldwide, what was I ever thinking? Thanks for putting me straight on that one Mr Whitehead.





For those that don't know, the ABPI, whom Whitehead is the CEO of, are basically a body whose sole purpose is to protect the pharmaceutical industry from answering tough questions from consumers. One only has to write to any pharmaceutical company to ask them about certain prescription products to see exactly how they quote certain rules, regulations and exemptions, put in place by the ABPI, that prevents [protects] them from answering why Drug X is causing withdrawal problems or if Drug Z can actually cause suicide. If pharma aren't referring you to your own doctor to seek answers about their drugs, they are also quoting the protection racket offered to them by the ABPI.

The UK Medicines regulator, the MHRA, [remember, those 'independent' bunch] are also in bed back scratching with the ABPI.

There's a great word out here in New Zealand - Drongo.

Drongo - Dumbass, idiot

Far be it for me to label Whitehead with such a derogatory term but his letter to the New Statesman smacks of complete ignorance and denial. I'm also astounded that Whitehead has the unique ability to gaze into company records and pronounce that pharma's underhand dealings in the US simply do not happen in the UK.

What evidence does Whitehead offer?

Well, in a nutshell, nothing.

Whitehead's letter continues with...

"Let us not forget that the pharmaceutical industry has been responsible for the development of 90 per cent of medicines in the world and through incremental innovation, has helped the management of many illnesses (some previously terminal) to improve no end."

Bravo! Let's just bury the wrong-doings of pharma and move on, eh? Citing the good does not eradicate the bad. We could all read Biographies of tyrants such as Adolph Hitler, Saddam Hussain and Osama Bin Laden and find, if we searched hard enough, a part of their history in which they were good little boys. The aforementioned are no longer with us, suicide, justice and military [ahem] procedures finally put an end to their crimes. No such end, as far as I can see, has been put in place to stop pharma acting in fraud and designing, manufacturing and marketing pills based around 12 week clinical trials that are either mathematically skewed or, as in the case of GlaxoSmithKline, ghostwritten to prove efficacy.

Whithead's following paragraph had me in a state of apoplexy:

"The undertaking of clinical trials is tightly regulated in the UK by the MHRA and the EMA across Europe, who scrutinise clinical trial data relating to the quality, efficacy and safety of new medicines - everything is done to ensure that ineffective treatments do not reach patients."
Yup, and once they find out that pharma have been 'less than fruitful' with those clinical trials, they sit on that information for years on end whilst the masses continue to ingest bad medicine. My understanding of the MHRA is thus:

Receive thousands of complaints about a specific drug - convene an 'expert' meeting on the said drug - give the drug a clean bill of health.

Let's face it, the only time the MHRA have acted on data is when that data has been made public by journalists such as BBC's Shelley Jofre.

We can hardly trust the MHRA when it's littered with ex-pharmaceutical employees who seem more bothered about fake drugs entering the UK market than licensed drugs causing untold deaths.

SSRi's [All stats from the MHRA website]

Citalopram - 161 related deaths
Escitalopram - 29 related deaths
Fluoxetine - 246 related deaths
Fluvoxamine - 23 related deaths
Paroxetine - 180 related deaths
Sertraline - 105 related deaths

Whitehead covers the MHRA in garlands, claiming that, "...everything is done to ensure that ineffective treatments do not reach patients."

I'm sure the 744 deaths above, if they could contact the MHRA via a psychic medium, would be back-slapping the MHRA for keeping ineffective medicines out of their lives.

Let's not forget that the above figures are but a fraction of the real figures. The MHRA's adverse reaction reporting system [Yellow Card] is hardly a benchmark of business at its finest.

Back in 2008 the MHRA joined forces with the ABPI in an effort to help people like you and I to "find out more about the life cycle of medicines from their first scientific discovery through to licensing and ongoing monitoring."

Good friend of mine, Stuart Jones, who lost his daughter, Sheryl, after she overdosed on citalopram, wrote a scathing comment on this collaboration HERE.

Whitehead ends his letter with:

"Contrary to Goldacre’s musings, we do not seek to “hide” trial data – it is already best practice within industry to publish all data, positive and negative. We recognise that there still work to be done in ensuring the publication of negative trial data within journals, and in ensuring greater transparency all round within the industry, but we are working collaboratively with the wider healthcare sector to achieve this and will continue to do so to bring about improved outcomes in patient care."
Be great if Whitehead called for a retraction of Glaxo's fraudulent 329 study particularly as he has now publicly announced [in his letter] that, "We recognise that there still work to be done in ensuring the publication of negative trial data within journals..."

If Whitehead believes this study has only ever been used as a resource by American doctor's then he is very much mistaken. If he believes that doctor's in the UK have never received a bribe from pharmaceutical reps, once again, he is very much mistaken.

I find it laughable that the CEO of the ABPI would defend the industry particularly when, last year, the HM Revenue & Customs [HMRC] were seeking information from pharmaceutical companies regarding payments made to doctors, psychiatrists, key opinion leaders etc.

Contrary to Whitehead's claims that this only happens in America the ABPI sent out the following to it's members last year.

Click Image to enlarge
If there were no problem of kickbacks and illicit payments in the UK then why bother sending out such a letter?

Great work Mr Whitehead. Life as a blogger is made so much easier when people like you defend an industry that you serve to protect.

Maybe next time protection is offered via the New Statesman Whitehead may want to check his 'out tray' in his office.

**Whitehead made no mention in his letter to the New Statesman that he spent 10 years at Glaxo and Eli Lilly at UK, European and international level.