GlaxoSmithKline plc: Corporate Crimes

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GlaxoSmithKline plc


A Corporate Profile

By Corporate Watch UK
Completed November 2002


4. Corporate crimes


Animal Welfare

GlaxoSmithKline uses animal testing and vivisection in its drug research. In it’s company policy on animal testing GSK “…acknowledges that it has a moral responsibility to ensure best practice in the humane treatment of laboratory animals.”[28] In spite of this, GSK’s testing practices are often cruel, and the tests themselves completely unnecessary.

GSK’s animal testing policy claims “Non-medical Consumer Healthcare products…are never tested on animals unless there is a specific demand for this from national governments.”[29] Yet, the Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in August 2000 listed SmithKline Beecham as a company that manufactured animal tested products. These were personal health care and household products that were not required by US law to be tested on animals. SmithKline Beeecham’s animal testing policy at the time also stated that testing would only be carried out if required by law.[30]

Failing Global Health Needs

14 Million people die each year from infectious diseases, most of them in developing countries. [31] The medical treatments available are often archaic and ineffective, especially for so-called ‘neglected diseases’ (Malaria, Tuberculosis, Sleeping Sickness, Chagas disease, and leishmaniasis), whose victims are almost exclusively from developing countries and poor. These diseases are linked with poverty and unsanitary living conditions; new drugs are desperately needed.

At present, private pharmaceutical companies control the development of new medicines. People in Developing countries, who make up 80 per cent of the world’s population, only represent about 20 per cent of worldwide medicine sales.[32] Since these people are relatively poor, GlaxoSmithKline, along with other major pharmaceutical companies, do not see it as profitable to develop medicines for their needs, and do negligible research into medicines which would help them. “Of all annual health related research, only 0.2 per cent is spent on pneumonia, diarrhoea, and tuberculosis-three poverty related ailments which account for 18 per cent of the global disease burden.”(Oxfam, Briefing paper on GlaxoSmithKline, 2001).[33] This failure, in effect, kills untold numbers of people every year. It is the fault of the pharmaceutical industry putting their company profits above the lives of people, but it is also the fault of governments and other bodies like the United Nations for depending on market forces to provide people with basic necessities.

Environmental Issues

GlaxoSmithKline owns dozens of chemical plants all over the world. The chemical plant they own in Ulverston is marked by it’s carcinogenic emissions and repeated violations of environmental regulations.

According to the Factory Watch website, GSK’s chemical plant in Ulverston is one of the most carcinogenic polluters in the UK. Factory Watch’s information, compiled from Environment agency data, looked at over 1,500 factories nation-wide. The Ulverston site was ranked number three on Factory Watch’s list, emitting 773 tonnes of carcinogens in 2001, 10 per cent of the national total.[34]

In September 1992 the Ulverston site (then owned by Glaxo Wellcome) dumped several toxic chemicals in the river Leven, without authorisation. The chemicals included trichloroethylene, chloroform, and chlorobenzene.[35]

Also, in May 1994, the Ulverston site discharged, again without authorisation, 1,350m3 of “ineffectively treated effluent” into M. The company was required by law to notify the authorities within 24 hours, but they didn’t until six days later.[36]

[28] (source: GlaxoSmithKline, date viewed 28/10/2002)

[29] (source: GlaxoSmithKline, date viewed 28/10/2002)

[30] Consumer Products Companies That Test on Animals (PETA website>, 8/23/00), as sited in Ethical Consumer Research Supplement, February/march 2001

[31] World Health Organisation, The World Health Report 2000 (Medecins Sans Frontieres, Fatal Imbalance: The Crisis in Research and Development for Neglected Diseases, September 2001)

[32] Medecins Sans Frontieres, Fatal Imbalance: The Crisis in Research and Development for Neglected Diseases, September 2001

[33] Oxfam, Briefing paper on GlaxoSmithKline: Dare to Lead, Public Health and Company Wealth, 2001

[34]> (source: Friends of the Earth, date viewed: 25.10.2002)

[35] Friends of the Earth, Factory Watch press release, 8 February, 1999

[36] ENDS Report 292, May 1999, pp. 33-34