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Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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April 4, 2014

GSK Dismisses Employees in Bribery Scandal. Apparently.

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Posted by Derek

Someone is letting it be known that GlaxoSmithKline has fired some of its employees in China in relation to the long-running bribery scandal there. This is one of those times when it's worth asking the "Cui bono?" follow-up question. Is this some sort of semi-authorized release, designed to show other GSK employees that the company is serious? Or to demonstrate the same, publicly, to the Chinese authorities? Or is someone honestly just letting this information out on their own - and if so, why?

Comments (20) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. SteveM on April 4, 2014 11:40 AM writes...

Re: "Is this some sort of semi-authorized release, designed to show other GSK employees that the company is serious? Or to demonstrate the same, publicly, to the Chinese authorities?

Obviously both. But GSK will no doubt cook up other ways to influence Chinese decision makers. Maybe keep moving up the food chain and bribe the officials who brought up the charges.

It's just business. As long as the benefit of malfeasance outweighs the cost of bribes and/or penalties, Pharma has shown that it will engage in it.

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2. annonie on April 4, 2014 11:58 AM writes...

Your fishing Derek, but I doubt your bait will look very tasty.

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3. Derek Lowe on April 4, 2014 12:31 PM writes...

Hadn't occurred to me annonie - I have no desire to get mixed up in this, and I don't expect anyone to contact me. But it is a story of interest, thus the blog entry.

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4. NaturalChemist on April 4, 2014 1:04 PM writes...

You're fishing...

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5. BestPractice on April 4, 2014 1:54 PM writes...

Cynicism aside, integrity is very much central to how GSK now operates. There is a Corporate Integrity Agreement in place and all staff are expected to operate to the highest standards of probity and honesty. Sir Andrew Witty has been leading the way for the whole pharmaceutical industry in this regard. Unfortunately, some of his predecessors did not afford such importance to this side of the business and the company is still dealing with legacy issues.

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6. Anonymous on April 4, 2014 2:34 PM writes...

Thanks, Andy, for the heads up.

Xi Jinping

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7. annon four on April 4, 2014 3:07 PM writes...

5, Best Practice: Thanks for the quote from GSK Compliance.

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8. Dr. Mindbender on April 4, 2014 3:43 PM writes...

I was randomly reminiscing this week about an older blog entry about GSK that wasn't very flattering. A GSK rep posing as an R&D staff member posted a very obvious insider response claiming that GSK was doing amazing and that nobody was unhappy with Slaoui or Vallance. I want to say the pseudonym was Agilist or something similar. Anyways, apparently BestPractice is the new incarnation of that persona.

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9. Anton on April 4, 2014 4:10 PM writes...

You think people would have caught on my now that chinese chemicals are garbage. How many of you have ordered from a chinese vendor and found sand, celite, paper, etc in your samples? You want to know why your yields are low? Was your starting material from China or prepared by a woman?

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10. Annon again on April 4, 2014 4:26 PM writes...

9: Quite unnecessary comments.

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11. about agilist on April 4, 2014 4:38 PM writes...

At first I thought agilist (now BestPractice and a few other names) was a GSK PR shrill. The posts were pretty funny, since they were such corporate speak babble junk that we all love to hate. Then someone had the idea that Agilist was actually some med chemist, likely a GSK or ex GSK guy, pretending to be a corporate PR shrill, kinda a long running sarcastic joke. I was kinda bummed out to think it was a joke and not a real GSK shrill. That and agilist stopped posting. Then, all of sudden she's back. I'm thinking Agilist is a real PR GSK shrill. She clearly has no scientific credibility and doesn't seem to understand anything about science other than some buzzwords. I can't imagine that a scientist at GSK would actually ask her to comment. So I think she's doing this all of her own accord. I also don't know if its a man or woman (or a some kinda android) but I'm guessing a woman from the language. But maybe its a committee of shrills. Maybe the comments are screened by a lawyer before posting? It makes sense not to have scientist-shrills posts on this blog, as they might give away a trade secret. But Agilist clearly knows nothing, so I guess GSK really doesn't care what he/she says?

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12. Krustythekemist on April 4, 2014 6:22 PM writes...


I agree that misogynistic comments are not necessary, though I can attest to the crap coming into GSK from Chinese CROs. I have personal knowledge of paper in API coming from China! Upper management was aware of it and did not care. Apparently it did not fit the narrative that all is well with the outsourcing to China.

I can also attest to the cult of personality in GSK with even bench scientists talking about, "Patrick said this..Moncef said that..blah blah" I knew the fight was lost when the D level scientist was parroting Patrick's fanciful ideas. Nobody had the cajones to say enough.

Very sad indeed.

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13. Anton on April 4, 2014 7:27 PM writes...

Thank you. Some women (like 10) do not like to hear the truth. They like to hear lies such as how beautiful they are or how wonderful the quality of chinese API is. The fact is China has been sending us crap for years now. The turn around times are long and the quality is low. If at the end of their synthesis, they did not make the target yield, they throw impurity in to boost the yield. Maybe a little iron or lead. Those nice looking crystals blending in with that orange powder: that is table salt.

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14. Annon again on April 4, 2014 7:55 PM writes...


First, I am not a woman.

Second, I've worked in science with some quite exceptional women and men, along with some of both genders who have been very poor performers. In fact, I've had more less-than-impressive men than women report to me over the years. What China suppliers has to do with women in science in Europe or the US is not at all clear.

Third, the original posting had to do with the alleged marketing bribing issues in China, not with anything related directly to scientific / chemistry questions.

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15. SteveM on April 4, 2014 8:19 PM writes...

Re 5. BestPractice "Cynicism aside..."

Well no, cynicism rightfully full front and center. The vaunted Sir Andrew was in on the cons. He ginned up the Corporate Integrity Agreement for the oldest of reasons - GSK got caught.

BTW, the U.S. Constitution also says noble, elevated things, but is ignored and circumvented at will by America's Power Elite class. Who then lie about the subversions.

To claim that the Crony Business Elites are any less disingenuously high handed is either naive or evidence of a Crony plant.

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16. Physical Chemist on April 4, 2014 9:50 PM writes...

There is no pretense here, just modus operandi for Big Pharma.

Companies seek plausible deniability by including compliance training for employees, yet reality tells a different story: “We did get training in compliance,” he says. “But then our team leader took us off individually to tell us how to offer kickbacks. We weren’t allowed to talk about that, in the office.”

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17. anonymous on April 7, 2014 7:34 AM writes...

@11: I think the word you're looking for is "shill." But certainly a shill can be shrill.

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18. Vader on April 7, 2014 10:48 AM writes...

Interesting that this discussion so far has ignored the elephant in the living room: Official corruption in China.

It is very difficult to do business in a country where so many officials expect their "squeeze."

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19. anonymous on April 7, 2014 11:09 AM writes...

@18: I agree. I never know what to think of these situations- is it a bribe or a shakedown? If it's a bribe it's a bribe, but if it's a shakedown, then calling it a bribe is just blaming the victim.

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20. Hap on April 7, 2014 12:13 PM writes...

I would guess it depends on what China does - it nothing (or very little) happens to the people who accepted the bribes, then it'll be clear (or easily interpreted by drug companies and Chinese officials) that baksheesh is business as usual, and you simply need to allot more for bribes to higher officials to get anything done.

If something actually happens to people caught accepting bribes, then it's possible that officials might reconsider the practice. (It's also possible that it's just to impress companies from which China hopes to gain things, and business will continue as it has been.) Bribes require positive action, and if you shake down big companies, despite threats by your government, eventually one of them will probably make sure the right gets to the wrong ear and you will need to hope that your investment strategy was good for your kids' sakes. It depends on how much effort the Chinese government puts on their effort to combat corruption, and whether they can afford to replace bribes for officials with actual pay.

GSK isn't endearing, but I would have a hard time believing they're alone in this.

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