Government watchdogs 'turn a blind eye' to pharma corruption, report says

bribery

The pharma business is ripe for corruption worldwide, watchdogs are fond of saying, and a new report from Transparency International argues that governments and drugmakers show “a willful degree of blindness” to the problem.

The organization cast a wide net in its critique of the industry and its regulators. Transparency International pointed to billions in spending on promotions to doctors in the U.S., well-financed lobbying efforts and selective publication of trial data--even the use of ghostwriters to craft medical journal articles.

There’s no lack of illustrative anecdotes: To mention the most notorious, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) paid a $493 million fine for bribery in China in 2014. A series of Big Pharmas have paid fines in the U.S. for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Pfizer ($PFE). And companies have shelled out billions of dollars in fines and penalties to settle kickback charges and other marketing allegations.

Webinar

Striving for Zero in Quality & Manufacturing

Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers strive towards a culture of zero – zero hazards, zero defects, and zero waste. This on-demand webinar discusses the role that content management plays in pharmaceutical manufacturing to help companies reach the goal of zero in Quality and Manufacturing.

"It is shocking that despite scandal after scandal involving pharma companies, still policy makers simply are not taking seriously the corrosive effect of corruption," Sophie Peresson, its head of pharmaceuticals and healthcare, said in a statement. "The red flags are being ignored.”

The wide range of laws and cultural practices around the globe complicates the problem; some countries have stiff regulations that they broadly enforce, while others lack adequate rules or enforce them with a wink and a smile, or both. There's little hard data to quantify the problem. And beyond Big Pharma are many little pharmas trying to promote their drugs and grab government supply contracts, too, complicating numbers--and reform efforts--still further.

Transparency International identified weaknesses throughout the pharma supply chain, from R&D and manufacturing all the way through procurement and distribution. The advocacy group backed broader adoption of policies used to keep a lid on misbehavior, such as tight control and oversight in procurement. The report also suggests stepped-up enforcement of existing rules and bigger sanctions for those who break them.

“To genuinely diminish corruption in the pharmaceutical sector,” the report said, “national governments must show commitment to tackling the issues. Regardless of a company’s revenue, an official’s seniority or a healthcare professional’s prestige, anyone suspected of corruption must be investigated and sanctions applied.”

- get the Transparency International report

Related Articles:
Add it to the list: GSK corruption claims crop up in Yemen
Novartis wraps up China bribery probe with $25M payment to SEC
Novartis: Turkish ministry couldn't substantiate bribery claim
Romania launches bribery probe into 11 drugmakers
Reuters: Turkish whistleblower accuses Novartis of bribing providers to boost scripts
 

Suggested Articles

Imbruvica has enjoyed a nice run in previously untreated CLL over the last few years. But major competition is here in the form of AZ's Calquence.

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court revived thousands of lawsuits alleging the antipsychotic med Risperdal caused males to develop breasts.

In the asthma biologics race, there doesn't appear to be a clear favorite among Xolair, Dupixent, Fasenra and Nucala for a group of pulmonologists.