GSK settlement reveals junkets

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The US Justice Department, as part of its record $3-billion settlement with GlaxoSmithKline, said the drugmaker employed ostensibly scientific meetings to expand the market for antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin.

The infractions cited in the settlement, which resolves state and federal charges, happened between 1998 and 2003.

The firm drew psychiatrists to Paxil Forum meetings at high-end resorts, paid them for speaking and attending, covered their travel expenses, and offered expensive meals and lavish entertainment like snorkeling and golf, balloon rides and deep sea fishing.

GSK said such events generated $900,000 in additional revenues in 2000, and in a poll of attendees, 12% said they would be more comfortable prescribing Paxil to children and adolescents, although the drug was not approved for pediatric use.

Similar tactics were enlisted for Wellbutrin to market the drug to doctors for off-label uses like weight loss, sexual dysfunction, substance addictions and ADHD.

Purported as “independent medical education,” also used by GSK were lectures, cassettes and DVDs from an antidepressant KOL, who was paid almost $1 million in 2003 alone to discuss the uses.

Filings “show how rigorous clinical science was stretched beyond acceptable limits into cynical marketing for maximum commercial effect,” wrote the Financial Times.

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