Has GlaxoSmithKline Put its Secretive Past to Bed?

When Cheryl Eckard, a GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) global quality assurance manager, reported in 2002 that one of the company’s plants in Puerto Rico used bacteria-tainted water and broken equipment to manufacture its pharmaceuticals, the company found itself in the midst of a federal investigation.

The resulting lawsuit sullied the pharmaceutical company’s name. After pleading guilty to criminal charges several months ago, which included withholding safety data from U.S. regulators and illegally marketing drugs in the 1990s and early 2000s, the government fined Glaxo $3 billion.

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In order to restore its image, GlaxoSmithKline announced Thursday it would make detailed data from its clinical trials available to researchers. While patient data will be anonymous, researchers will be able to examine trials of approved drugs and discontinued ones, the company said. Most importantly, Chief Executive Andrew Witty promised that results of all clinical trials that evaluate Glaxo’s medicines will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

“As a truly global health-care company, I believe we have a responsibility to do all we can at GSK to use our resources, knowledge and expertise to help tackle serious global health challenges,” Witty said to the Wall Street Journal.

Witty, who assumed the position in 2008, told the Journal that he is trying to “change the company’s culture and clean up its image.”

Now, GlaxoSmithKline shares summary information about each trial it conducts; the summary results, positive or negative, are posted on a company website that receives an average of 10,000 visitors a month, according to the company.

Many other large pharmaceutical companies have settled lawsuits with U.S. government in recent years. In August, Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) paid the government $60 million to settle allegations that its employees bribed doctors to boost sales, and in 2009, Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) settled a probe into its alleged improper marketing of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa with a $1.42 billion payment.

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