As reported in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Two senior executives at GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) singled out by the U.S. Justice Department for pushing the Advair asthma drug for unapproved uses have moved on to some of Europe’s top pharmaceutical companies. Jean-Pierre Garnier, chief executive officer from 2000 to 2008, is chairman of Swiss drugmaker Actelion Ltd. (ATLN), while Chris Viehbacher, Glaxo’s former president of U.S. pharmaceuticals, is CEO of Sanofi, Europe’s third-biggest drug company. The department cited the men, along with Stanley Hull, a former senior vice president for U.S. pharmaceuticals, in a lawsuit July 2” (see “Former GSK Execs Who Implemented Off-Label Practices Now CEOs“).
“The real opportunity for us with Advair is that we can now convince physicians that there is no such thing as mild or severe asthma: you have asthma,” Viehbacher said at a presentation to investors in London in 2004, according to the filing. He quit Glaxo in September 2008 to join Sanofi (SAN) after losing out to Witty in the race to replace Garnier as CEO.
In January 2006, Garnier told investors that the FDA’s warning on Advair’s safety shouldn’t affect Glaxo’s stock price because it is “not meaningful and it is not going to have a big effect. I think products such as Advair are phenomenal for the treatment of asthma, and they should be used for mild to moderate and severe asthmatics. Physicians are not going to listen to the FDA.” Garnier retired as Glaxo CEO in May 2008 and was named chairman of Actelion last year.
Pharma corporations are “persons” who are too big to fail. Unlike “real persons,” however, these corporations are never changed with felony crimes, only misdemeanors, which means they can continue to sell drugs.
Meanwhile, most often — as illustrated in this case — the guilty real persons within these companies not only have “Get Out of Jail Free” cards, they also are REWARDED by moving up the corporate ladder! WTF?