Glaxo is fined £1.9bn in healthcare fraud scandal

GlaxoSmithKline was last night facing calls to be prosecuted in Britain after the drugmaking giant pleaded guilty to criminal charges and paid a $3bn (£1.9bn) fine to settle what US government officials called the largest case of healthcare fraud in American history.

Brentford-based Glaxo targeted patients under the age of 18 with the antidepressant Paxil when it was only approved for adults, and pushed the drug Wellbutrin for uses for which it was not approved. These included weight loss and treatment of sexual dysfunction, according to an investigation by the US Justice Department.

The pharma giant should be punished in its home country too, according to Paul Flynn, the Labour MP who was Neil Kinnock's health spokesman.

He said: "GlaxosmithKline has been involved in the same mis-selling here in the UK as has been found in the US. A major British drug company has been found bribing doctors, placing misleading articles in medical journals, and it does it in this country too.

"These are huge offences. There have surely been many avoidable deaths as a result of its actions. We're too permissive of our control of pharmaceutical bodies in the UK. GlaxoSmithKline should be prosecuted here."

US authorities said Glaxo went to huge lengths to promote its drugs, including distributing a misleading medical journal article and providing doctors with meals and spa treatments that were classed as illegal.

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