GSK allegations heighten industry's reputational woes

Accusations levelled at GlaxoSmithKline last week have fuelled suspicions of 'greed, dishonesty and fraud' in the pharmaceutical industry, according to a top PRO at a rival drugs firm.

GSK was slammed over Seroxat
GSK was slammed over Seroxat

Procter & Gamble Europe director of external relations Mark Chakravarty was speaking as GSK hit the headlines for allegedly hiding negative trial results concerning its anti-depressant Seroxat.

Chakravarty said: 'There is a high suspicion of the pharma industry. Greed, dishonesty and fraud are some of its associations. The clinical trial press this week and an increased number of drug scandals add to this image.'

The Procter & Gamble PRO was speaking at the pharmaceutical responsibility and reputation academic conference at Thames Valley University last week.

Also last week, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said it was concerned that GSK failed to raise the alarm earlier over Seroxat's side-effects.

But no-one from the company will face criminal charges as government prosecutors have advised there is little chance of a conviction.

Chakravarty's speech followed a wave of bad publicity for the pharma industry. An anti-depressant study released earlier this month was the first of the recent negative stories. The report stated that there is little reason to prescribe anti-depressants to the majority of patients (PRWeek, 6 March).

Pharma company Reckitt Benckiser also came under fire last week, following the publication of leaked internal documents suggesting the company cheated the NHS by blocking a generic version of its indigestion treatment Gaviscon.

Axon Communications managing partner Ralph Sutton said: 'This is not simply a question of comms. It is a matter of addressing the underlying concern effectively, to ensure that companies act responsibly at all times. The general public has a negative image of the industry, largely due to a lack of understanding and the perception that the industry is simply out to make money.'

However, ABPI corporate affairs director David Lewis, speaking at the conference, urged the industry to be more positive. 'The industry is not as badly perceived as it thinks it is. It is promulgating the idea that the public have a negative view of the industry.'

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