Can Not-for-Profit Vaccines and Data Transparency Offset Scandal?

Oct. 29, 2013
GSK's dirty laundry has been aired for all the world to see. But despite its global misteps, the company is doing some really great things.

In recent months, the "GSK bribery scandal" has taken up signifcant space in global pharmaceutical news. GSK's dirty laundry has been aired for all the world to see. But despite its global misteps, the company is doing some really great things - great things that may be getting overshadowed by recent scandal.

Two of the most notable, both discussed in an October interview between GlaxoSmithKline's CEO Andrew Witty and Forbes Editor-In-Chief, Steve Forbes:

• “A fundamental commitment to transparency”

GSK has vowed to increase access to its clinical research. It was the first pharmaceutical company to create a publically accessible clinical research system. The company has also committed to publishing CSRs (clinical study reports) for all new studies on its drugs – both medicines that are approved by regulators and ones that are terminated from development.

Additionally, GSK has developed a web-based system so that researchers from the scientific community can request access to anonymous patient-level data from clinical studies.

"When a patient comes in to do a clinical trial, they are really taking risk, they are volunteering themselves in every possible sense of the word to try and advance knowledge. Now, clearly, they’re doing it partially for themselves but they’re also doing it as part of a commitment to society. Hopefully that leads to a great new medicine or vaccine but often it doesn’t and it seems to me and it struck me that it really seems a shame that those people make that gesture, if you will, but then if the data isn’t maximally used somehow we’re not honoring that commitment in the way we should," said Witty in his Forbes interview.

Read more about GSK's data transparency initiative

• Development of the world's first malaria vaccine

A partnership was announced between GSK and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for development of a heat-resistant malaria vaccine able to be used across Africa. Trials of the new vaccine in development, RTS,S, have almost halved the number of children aged five to 17 months with malaria.

The vaccine will be not-for-profit, but GSK will add 5% to the cost price which will go towards further research and development work on tropical diseases. GSK has reportedly spent $350M on the vaccine so far and expects to invest $260M more before it reaches children.

 All of this begs the question: when it comes to the "sins" of Big Pharma, can good deeds offset bad ones? What are you willing to forgive?

About the Author

Karen Langhauser | Digital Content Manager