GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a manufacturing giant known for popular products such as Breathe Right nasal strips and AquaFresh toothpaste. One of the most well-known manufacturers in the world, GlaxoSmithKline runs offices in more than 100 countries around the world. In 2009, it was ranked the fourth-largest pharmaceutical company in the world based on prescription drug sales. Its global headquarters is located in Brentford, England. GlaxoSmithKline’s U.S. headquarters is located in North Carolina.
One of GlaxoSmithKline’s most infamous cases of misconduct is seen through its disregard for the deadly side effects of Avandia. Avandia was once the world’s leading drug for diabetes treatment. After the drug’s increased risk of heart attacks was revealed, annual sales plummeted from $3 billion to $1 billion. Shortly after, the sale of Avandia was restricted in the U.S. and suspended in Europe.
GlaxoSmithKline was founded in 2000 after the merger of Glaxo Wellcome plc and SmithKline Beecham plc. Dating back centuries, the company’s roots thrived in 1880 with the establishment of Burroughs Wellcome & Company in London. In 1904, Glaxo was founded in New Zealand as a baby food manufacturing company. In 1935, Glaxo became Glaxo Laboratories and opened units in London.
The Beecham Group was first founded in England in 1843 with the launch of Beecham’s Pills laxative. In 1929, the company changed its name to Smith Kline & French. In 1982, Smith Kline & French merged with Beckman Inc. to form SmithKline Beckman. The company became SmithKline Beecham in 1989.
GlaxoSmithKline is well-known for its philanthropy and charity efforts. In 2009, GlaxoSmithKline announced its plan to cut drug prices by 20 percent in 50 of the world’s poorest nations. The company also announced it would encourage new drug development by releasing rights to intellectual property into a patent pool. The released rights were aimed toward processes and substances that are relevant to neglected disease. Additionally, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to invest 20 percent of its profits from underdeveloped countries into the countries’ medical infrastructure.
Later in 2009, GlaxoSmithKline joined forces with Pfizer, another of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The two created ViiV Healthcare, which received all of the HIV assets of both companies. GlaxoSmithKline owns 85 percent of ViiV, while Pfizer owns the remaining 15 percent.
In 2010, GlaxoSmithKline donated 100 million albendazole tablets to treat lymphatic filariasis, or intestinal worms. The company also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight the condition. Additionally, GlaxoSmithKline distributes more than 1.1 vaccination doses to more than 170 countries around the world.
In 2010, GlaxoSmithKline paid a $750 million settlement for selling contaminated products. The products included Paxil, Avandia, and a baby ointment called Bactroban. The contaminated products were all manufactured in a plant in Puerto Rico. In 2009, the plant closed after failed attempts to fix the plant after an FDA investigation. Before it was shut down, the plant manufactured roughly $5.5 billion worth of products each year.
In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline was ordered to pay $3 billion for marketing misconduct over Paxil, Wellbutrin, Advair, and Avandia. The company marketed antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for uses that were unapproved by the FDA. Paxil was marketed to teens and children despite FDA approval for adults only.
Wellbutrin was marketed to help patients with sexual dysfunction, weight loss, ADHD, and drug addiction despite FDA approval to treat only depression. GlaxoSmithKline was also charged with hiding knowledge of deadly side effects from diabetes drug Avandia. Studies show that Avandia can increase heart attack risk by up to 43 percent.
One billion dollars of the settlement went toward criminal fines and forfeitures, while $2 billion was paid for civil damages associated with other drugs. Additionally, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to undergo monitoring from government regulators for a total of five years.