From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is an international pharmaceutical giant headquartered in Britain. GSK traces its heritage back to a London pharmacy established in 1715. Various entities, including Burroughs Wellcome & Company, Smith-Kline & French Laboratories and Glaxo Laboratories merged to form GSK.[1] GSK is one of the top five drug firms in the world.

In the fiscal year ending in December of 2010, the company had total revenues of approximately $45.6 billion.[2] Its CEO, Andrew Witty, received an annual compensation of $3.69 million in 2010.[3]

Access GlaxoSmithKline's corporate rap sheet compiled and written by Good Jobs First here.

Ties to ALEC

GSK is on the corporate ("Private Enterprise") board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011. John Del Giorno, Vice President of State Government Affairs, represents GSK on the board as of 2011.[4]

A list of ALEC Corporations can be found here.

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.


The company spent $8,760,000 for lobbying in 2009. $1,250,000 went to eight outside firms, and the remaining about was spent on in-house lobbyists.

Political contributions

GSK gave $860,122 to federal candidates in 2010 through its political action committee (PAC) - 54% to Democrats and 43% to Republicans. [6]

Public relations

Aggressive PR

Due to the low public standing of GSK and drug industry as a whole, GSK began engaging in aggressive, often locally-focused public relations. In spring 2004, GSK launched a "grassroots outreach" effort, sending "sales representatives to deliver its message in front of the religious, fraternal, and other community groups to which they belong." A year into the effort, PR Week reported that GSK's standing had improved by 13 points, according to a Harris Interactive poll.

"Clearly the grassroots campaign is having an impact," said Michael Pucci, Glaxo's VP of external advocacy.

GSK "also forged a partnership with WebMD, launching the website to address issues ranging from the cost of developing drugs to patient assistance programs," reported PR Week.

In Fall 2005, the company will begin "an extensive state-by-state media blitz," paralleling its "grassroots outreach." PR Week reported:

"Glaxo will target local media markets in each state - outlets that do not often have the chance to communicate directly with pharmaceutical executives."

GSK's Pucci said that local reporters were easier for the drug company to deal with.

"These folks are hungry for news. They'll print everything we say … without the political spin."

GSK hired two PR firms for the media work, but declined to name them. [7], [8]

Americans for Medical Progress

GSK personnel sit on the board of AMP. See also Americans for Medical Progress.


GSK's top sellers include central nervous system therapies, respiratory drugs, antiviral (AZT) therapies and vaccines. The company's top seller is the asthma medication Advair, a combination of two other company products, Flovent and Serevent. Other best sellers include Valtrex (herpes), Lamictal (epilepsy), Paxil (antidepressant), Imitrex (migrains) and Augmentin (antibiotic). GSK's consumer products include Tums (sour stomach); dental care products Aquafresh and Sensodyne; and NicoDerm and Nicorette for smoking addiction. [9]

Drug issues

Violation Tracker
Discover Which Corporations are the Biggest Violators of Environmental, Health and Safety Laws in the United States
Violation Tracker is the first national search engine on corporate misconduct covering environmental, health, and safety cases initiated by 13 federal regulatory agencies. Violation Tracker is produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First. Click here to access Violation Tracker.

GSK & placebo effect

In 2003, a senior executive for GlaxoSmithKline announced that the vast majority of drugs, more than 90%; only work in 30 to 50% of the people. Dr. Allen Roses, an academic geneticist from Duke University spoke at a scientific meeting in London:[10]

"Drugs for Alzheimer's disease work in fewer than one in three patients, whereas those for cancer are only effective in a quarter of patients. Drugs for migraines, for osteoporosis, and arthritis work in about half the patients. Most drugs work in fewer than one in two patients mainly because the recipients carry genes that interfere in some way with the medicine." [11]

30 to 70% is considered to be placebo effect.[12] See also pharmaceutical industry, sections 4 through 6.

Antidepressants for teens

In March 2004, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published excerpts from a GSK "internal document" that advised staff "to withhold clinical trial findings in 1998 that indicated the antidepressant paroxetine (Paxil in North America and Seroxat in the UK) had no beneficial effect in treating adolescents." The GSK memo recommended, in part, that the company needed to "effectively manage the dissemination of these data in order to minimize any potential negative commercial impact" and stated that "It would be commercially unacceptable to include a statement that efficacy had not been demonstrated, as this would undermine the profile of paroxetine." [13]

Avandia controversy

Following Dr. Steven Nissen's publication of a study warning that "GlaxoSmithKline's diabetes drug Avandia increased the risk of heart attacks by 43% and death from cardiovascular events by possibly 64%," he was publicly pilloried. "More than one story from ostensibly different sources" derisively referred to him as "St Steven," the "Patron Saint of Drug Safety," and "Saint Steven the Pure," reported Evelyn Pringle in an August of 2007 CounterPunch article.[14]

Among the Nissen attackers was Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman Douglas Arbesfeld. Arbesfeld previously worked for the public relations firm Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L), helping Glaxo and other "healthcare clients maximize internet-relations." Former FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who ridiculed Nissen in a Wall Street Journal editorial, also consulted for pharmaceutical companies at MS&L. Two more FDA alums, Peter Pitts and Robert Goldberg, mocked Nissen in a Washington Times piece. Pitts is the senior vice-president for global health affairs at MS&L. Goldberg doesn't have ties to the PR firm, but serves with Pitts as an officer of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI), which Pringle describes as a "nest of ex-moles who served the industry in one capacity or another in the Bush Administration's FDA."[15]

CMPI is a project of the Pacific Research Institute, a free market think tank.

See also GlaxoSmithKline, the Diabetes Drug Avandia and The Intimidation of Dr. John Buse

Paxil controversy & lawsuits

In 2003 GSK signed a corporate integrity agreement and paid $88 million in a civil fine for overcharging Medicaid for the antidepressant Paxil, and nasal-allergy spray Flonase. Later that year GSK also ran afoul of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and was facing a demand for $7.8 billion in backdated taxes and interest, the highest in IRS history.

On September 12, 2006 GSK settled the largest tax dispute in IRS history agreeing to pay $3.1 billion. At issue in the case were Zantac and the other Glaxo Group heritage products sold from 1989–2005. The case was about an area of taxation dealing with intracompany "transfer pricing"—determining the share of profit attributable to the US subsidiaries of GSK and subject to tax by the IRS. Taxes for large multi-divisional companies are paid to revenue authorities based on the profits reported in particular tax jurisdictions, so how profits were allocated among various legacy Glaxo divisions based on the functions they performed was central to the dispute in this case.[16]

On December 22, 2006, a US court decided in Hoorman, et al. v. SmithKline Beecham Corp that individuals who purchased Paxil(R) or Paxil CR(TM) (paroxetine) for a minor child may be eligible for benefits under a $63.8 million Proposed Settlement.[17]

The lawsuit won the argument that GSK promoted Paxil(R) or Paxil CR(TM) for prescription to children and adolescents while withholding and concealing material information about the medication's safety and effectiveness for minors. The lawsuit stemmed from a consumer advocate protest against Paroxetine manufacturer GSK. Since the FDA approved paroxetine in 1992, approximately 5,000 U.S. citizens – and thousands more worldwide – have sued GSK. Most of these people feel they were not sufficiently warned in advance of the drug's side effects and addictive properties.

Paxil induced suicides

According to "Paxil Protest", hundreds more lawsuits have been filed against GSK by families who claim Paxil drove a loved one to suicide. One account on describes the death of a child who left a note written in crayon, before hanging herself from a doorknob:[18] [19]

"Mom, by the time you find me, I'll be dead. I love you with all my heart. Don't worry, Jesus is with me."

The mother had asked the child's doctor to take her off the medication after she suspected adverse side effects, which the doctor refused to do. The "Paxil Protest" reveals the hidden horrors of a drug claiming to improve quality of life; horrors that are not new to GSK. The Paxil Protest also reveals the history of the drug's development; revealing that GSK knew that the drug could induce suicide, dependence and withdrawal, prior to the drug being approved. Furthermore, GSK conspired to hide adverse effects in order to obtain approval from the FDA. [20], [21]

Paxil Protest

The Paxil Protest website was launched August 8, 2005 to offer both information about the protest and information on Paxil previously unavailable to the public. Just three weeks after its launch, the site received more than a quarter of a million hits. The original Paxil Protest website was removed from the internet in 2006. It is possible that the action to take down the site was undertaken as part of a confidentiality agreement or 'gag order' which the site owner entered into, as part of a settlement of his action against GSK. However, in March of 2007, the web site Seroxat Secrets. [22] discovered that an archive of the was still available.

Gag orders are common in such cases and can extend to documents that defendants wish to remain hidden from the public. In some cases, such documents can become public at a later date, such as those made public by Dr. Peter Breggin in February of 2006.[23]

Diet drugs

Drugs marketed by GSK include the weight loss drug Alli.

Antivirals (AZT & Retrovir)

Drugs used to treat HIV and AIDS are various classes of toxic chemotherapies known as "antivirals" or "antiretrovirals".

AZT was developed in 1964 in a cancer research lab. It is a chemotherapy drug used to kill the cells that make up living tissue and blood. It works by disrupting cellular replication at the genetic level. DNA is comprised of four bases that combining in pairs. The pairs line up and spiral into a double helix. AZT stops the spiral, breaks the chain and kills the cell. Considered too dangerous even for short term use, AZT was shelved and a patent was never filed. However, over 20 years later in 1986, Burroughs Wellcome (now GSK) recycled AZT into an AIDS drug. Testing labs that ordered the drug received it in a package bearing a skull and crossbones on a bright orange background with a "TOXIC" label and warnings against swallowing, inhaling and skin contact. Today, GSK sells AZT under the brand name "Retrovir" and as an ingredient in "Combivir" and "Trizivir." According to the warning label:

"Retrovir (AZT) has been associated with Hematologic Toxicity (blood toxicity), including Neutropenia (loss of neurophils, an essential component of blood) and Severe Anemia (potentially fatal lack of blood production). Prolonged use of Retrovir has been associated with Symptomatic Myopathy (muscle wasting), Lactic Acidosis and Severe Hepatomegaly (liver swelling) with Steatosis (fat degeneration). Fatal Cases have been reported with the use of Nucleoside Analogues (AZT, 3TC, ddl, D4T) alone or in combination, including Retrovir and other Antiretrovirals."

Worse yet, AZT doesn't even claim to work:

"Retrovir is not a cure for HIV infection ...The long-term effects of Retrovir are unknown at this time ...The long-term consequences of in utero and infant exposure to Retrovir are unknown, including the possible risk of cancer."

Drugs containing AZT as an ingredient accounted for about one billion British pounds (over 1. 5 billion dollars) in GSK's 2002 sales alone. Other nucleoside analogues provided another 470 million pounds (750 million dollars) in sales. In 1986, AZT was rushed through its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval trials in record speed. Overseen and funded by Burroughs Wellcome (now GSK), the trials were marred by false reporting and a total breakdown of study controls. Nevertheless, the drug was released to the market. Subsequent independent AZT studies revealed the obvious deadly nature of the drug. In English, Australian, and Dutch studies, AZT patients developed severe anemia, requiring multiple blood transfusions just to stay alive. In the Dutch study, three-quarters of the AZT patients died. [24] See also AIDS industry.

Clinical trials

Toxic drug trials on foster children

See also Foster child drug trials.

Animal testing

Demonstration against HLS customer GSK. - NYC4 Animals - January 2008

GlaxoSmithKline does animal testing.

Facility information, progress & USDA-APHIS reports

For links to copies of a facility's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Animal Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) reports, other information and links, see also Stop Animal Experimentation NOW!: Facility Reports and Information. This site contains listings for all 50 states, links to biomedical research facilities in that state and PDF copies of government documents where facilities must report their animal usage. (Search: GlaxoSmithKline, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania)

USDA AWA reports

As of May 26, 2009, the USDA began posting all inspection reports for animal breeders, dealers, exhibitors, handlers, research facilities and animal carriers by state. See also USDA Animal Welfare Inspection Reports.

Contract testing

GlaxoSmithKline contract tests out to Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).[25] Huntingdon Life Sciences is the 3rd largest contract research organization (CRO) in the world and the largest animal testing facility in all of Europe. Firms hire CROs to conduct animal toxicity tests for agrochemicals, petrochemicals, household products, pharmaceutical drugs and toxins. HLS has a long history of gross animal welfare violations. See also Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Personnel & board

Key executives & 2008 pay

  • Andrew Witty - CEO - 2.65 M
  • Julian Heslop - Chief Financial Officer 1.40 M
  • Moncef Slaoui - Chairman of R&D, 1.75 M
  • David Pulman - President, Global Manufacturing and Supply
  • Marc Dunoyer - Pres, Pharmaceuticals, Asia-Pacific, Japan [27]

Selected board members

James Murdoch

In February 2009, GSK announced that James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, was joining GSK as a non-executive director its main board and corporate responsibility committee. [29]

Former board members


GlaxoSmithKline plc
980 Great West Road
Brentford, Middlesex TW8 9GS
United Kingdom

Phone: +44-20-8990-9000 Fax: +44-20-8990-4321

Web address:

5 Moore Drive
P.O. Box 13398
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Phone: 888 825 5249

One Franklin Plaza
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Web address:

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Articles

External Resources


  1. Our History, GlaxoSmithKline, accessed February 2009
  2. GlaxoSmithKline PLC Financials,"Bloomberg BusinessWeek", accessed July 9, 2011
  3. Executive Profile: Andrew Witty, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, accessed July 9, 2011
  4. American Legislative Exchange Council, Private Enterprise Board, organizational website, accessed July 8, 2011
  5. GlaxoSmithKline lobbying expenses, Open Secrets, accessed February 2010
  6. 2010 PAC Summary Data, Open Secrets, accessed February 2010
  7. Beth Herskovits "GlaxoSmithKline to engage media on state-by-state level, PR Week, June 6, 2005
  8. Plain Talk About Drug Company PR, PR Week, June 6, 2005
  9. Description: GlaxoSmithKline, Hoovers, accessed January 2011
  10. Steve Connor GlaxoSmithKline Chief: Our Drugs Do Not Work On Most Patients, The Independent Science, December 2003
  11. Steve Connor GlaxoSmithKline Chief: Our Drugs Do Not Work On Most Patients, The Independent Science, December 2003
  12. Darrel Crain, DC Placebos: Accept no substitutes, Planet, May 2006
  13. Wayne Kondro Drug Company Experts advised staff to withhold data about SSRI use in children, Canadian Medical Association Journal, March 2, 2004
  14. Evelyn Pringle Protection Racket? The FDA and Avandia, CounterPunch, August 15, 2007
  15. Evelyn Pringle Protection Racket? The FDA and Avandia, CounterPunch, August 15, 2007
  16. Carl Mortished GSK settles largest tax dispute in history for $3.1 billion, The Times, Sept 12 2006
  17. Welcome to the Pediatric Paxil Third-Party Payor Settlement Pediatric Paxil Third-Party Payor Settlement Information Website, accessed February 2010
  18. Dani Veracity National Paxil Protest invites antidepressant drugs victims to join public outcry against GlaxoSmithKline, Natural News, September 06, 2005
  19. The Paxil Protest,, accessed February 2010
  20. Dani Veracity National Paxil Protest invites antidepressant drugs victims to join public outcry against GlaxoSmithKline, Natural News, September 06, 2005
  21. The Paxil Protest,, accessed February 2010
  22. The Paxil Protest time machine, Seroxat Secrets, March 3, 2007
  23. Dr. Peter Breggin FDA Warns that Paxil Makes Depressed Adults Suicidal, Huffington Post, May 2006
  24. Liam Scheff Noble Doctors Try New Drugs on AIDS Orphans, Crux Magazine, November 2004
  25. Inside Customers,, accessed December 2009
  26. Description: GlaxoSmithKline, Hoovers, accessed January 2011
  27. GlaxoSmithKline Key Executives, Yahoo Finance, accessed February 2008
  28. Pg 54, Board of Directors, GlaxoSmithKline, accessed October 2007.
  29. Javier Espinoza Murdoch Joins Glaxo's Ranks: Drug maker recruits son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch as a non-executive director, Forbes, February 3, 2009