Tomahawk, WI 7/22/2013 (Basicsmedia) – Origin of Bribery in Pharma Sector

It was on July 3, 2012, that one of the world’s biggest reputed pharmaceutical giants, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was indicted for indulging in various forms of malpractices and misconduct for the sake of augmenting the sales of its products. Primarily, amongst the charges was the accusation of bribing physicians but something that was truly shocking and scary was the disclosure that many of the drugs had been manipulated beyond their curative powers and were wrongly projected as being miraculous. Although the company was made to pay a hefty fine and suffered a severe dent in its reputation, the fact soon became apparent that it was not the only bad egg in the basket.

Investigations revealed that GSK had only followed in the footsteps of its predecessors, who had laid this path of ill-gotten gains half a century earlier. As per John Braithwaite, instances of bribery have plagued the pharmaceutical sector since the 1970s’ where countries like Italy and Guatemala served as congenial breeding grounds for launching of fake and unsafe drugs. In his book, Corporate Crime in the Pharmaceutical Industry the author has not only enumerated some of the questionable episodes in the history of the industry but also exposed the modus operandi adopted by key players of this sector. Given its enormity, this subject has caught the imagination of contemporary authors too, with Arthur Hailey’s Strong Medicine being one of the best selling fictional works of all times. Swerving back to the non-fictional scenario, another book that discusses the subject of corruption and bribery in the pharmaceutical sector is Bad Pharma authored by Ben Goldacre.

From the various disclosures that have come to light, a point that is evident at first glance is that it has been a common practice for pharmaceutical companies through decades to buy their way through into new or existing markets, if it leads to a substantial increase in their bottom line. While some countries might have stood out in the past, courtesy of rampant bribery prevalent in the healthcare industry, revelations made over time have proved that these are not only culprits.

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