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GSK accused of intimidation

Two US senators have accused UK-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline of intimidation tactics regarding its diabetes drug, Avandia.

Two US senators have accused UK-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of intimidation tactics regarding its diabetes drug, Avandia (roseglitazone).

In a US Congressional Record report, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley alleged that GSK tried to intimidate and silence university professor John Buse, after he raised concerns about Avandia's link to cardiovascular events.

In the report, the senators added that the incident could be part of a more troubling pattern of behaviour by pharmaceutical executives. Buse revealed the allegations at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing earlier in 2007.

GSK countered by saying that the accusations were "absolutely false". After Buse's testimony, Baucus and Grassley sent letters to GSK and the University of North Carolina asking for documents, contacts and communications between the organisations related to Avandia.

According to the report, after Buse voiced concerns with Avandia, GSK employees labelled him a renegade, complained to his superiors and threatened a lawsuit. At one point, Buse said a company employee told his department chair that he could be held liable for a USD 4bn drop in company stock.

GSK then prepared a letter for Buse to sign that said he was no longer worried about an increased risk of cardiovascular events with Avandia use. The company showed the letter to a consulting firm which was evaluating GSK's products for investors. Buse also signed a legal document agreeing not to discuss the issue in public.

High-ranking executives, including CEO Jean-Pierre Garnier, were involved in discussions to silence Buse, according to the committee report.

The report can be accessed by clicking on the following link: http://finance.senate.gov/press/Bpress/2007press/prb111507a.pdf

GSK lobbying spend reaches USD 3.6m
Elsewhere, a recent disclosure form revealed that GSK spent more than USD 3.6m in H1 2007 to lobby the Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services on issues related to patent reform legislation, pharmaceutical regulation and foreign investment in the US.

GSK also lobbied on the Medicare prescription drug programme, legislation which proposes an expansion of child healthcare, government spending on health programmes and several free trade agreements, according to the form posted on 14 August 2007 by the US Senate's public records office.

30th September 2008

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