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Oct 11, 2012

"Open" Season at GSK

  • GlaxoSmithKline CEO Sir Andrew Witty said today his company will take several steps toward advancing what he called its commitment towards greater openness, transparency and collaboration—three months after pleading guilty to U.S. Department of Justice charges of improper practices and agreeing to pay a $3 billion fine.

    During an address at The Wellcome Trust, Sir Andrew said GSK will make available to researchers details of data from its clinical trials, saying the company aims to promote additional scientific inquiry and analyses in order to further scientific knowledge and help bring benefit to patients. GSK will create an independent panel of experts to review requests submitted by researchers for the data.

    “By being more open with our clinical trial data, we also hope to help further scientific understanding. I am pleased with the progress we have made so far to evolve our business model, but we recognize there is more we can do, and the new initiatives outlined today will enable us to build on this work,” Sir Andrew said in a statement.

    He also said GSK will make available to researchers 200 compounds that have shown promise in treating tuberculosis, an action similar to the company’s sharing of data on anti-malarial compounds in 2009. The 200 are part of GSK’s pharmaceutical library of more than 2 million compounds, all of which have been screened by company scientists for potential TB treatments. Results from the screening process will be published in a scientific journal, the company says.

    GSK also said it will double its funding of its Tres Cantos Open Lab in Spain with an additional £5 million ($8 million).

    The actions by GSK follow its guilty plea in July to charges that it improperly promoted its Paxil and Wellbutrin antidepressants for unapproved uses, and failed to report safety data about the diabetes drug Avandia. The company agreed to the largest settled fine of any pharma giant under the False Claims or whistleblower act; Johnson & Johnson paid $2 billion, and Abbott Laboratories, $1.6 billion following charges of improper marketing.

    However, GSK is the first pharma giant to announce an openness initiative. In an interview after his address with the Guardian, Sir Andrew said GSK had demonstrated its commitment to openness since then in part by publishing on its website summaries of every drug trial, successful or not.

    "People say we only publish positive trials. No, we publish everything. But the fact that people don't know or haven't yet accepted that we have this real commitment to transparency—we've got to keep working harder to get that message across,” Sir Andrew said. “I think it's still fair to say that not everybody believes that everything is made public. Even things we do all the time we're criticized for not doing.”


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