You may have heard about bigger-than-big-pharma company GlaxoSmithKline being fined $3 billion for pushing Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses and hiding important information about drug safety. While this is the largest fine to a drug company ever in the U.S., it's not really large for a multinational corporate behemoth whose 2011 revenue was £27.387 billion, or (at an exchange rate of $1.572 USD/GBP), $43,052,000,000. That is, the fine is about 7% of their yearly revenue -- equivalent to a fine of $3,500 for someone making $50,000. Significant, but hardly harsh.
Over at AlterNet, Lynn Parramore details how Dr. Drew Pinsky (host of shows like "Loveline" and "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew") made hundreds of thousands of dollars hawking GSK's potions, and the dangers these drug pose not just to patients but to all of us when used unwisely:
The suicide risks associated with antidepressants have been getting most of the attention in the Glaxo scandal, particularly because the company deliberately marketed its antidepressant Paxil to young people despite a known risk of suicide. Suicidal thinking and behavior is linked to the class of drugs known as SSRIs or serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and also to Effexor, a selective serotonin norepinephrine inhibitor, and Wellbutrin, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor.
But there’s something just as shocking – if not more so – in the FDA warnings about bupropion. And it has to do with that item called “homicidal ideation.” In plain English, that means thinking about killing someone. That’s quite an alarming potential side effect, and one many people would be unlikely to accept in a drug if they were aware of it. If you combine “homicidal ideation” with the other list of potential side effects, such as “aggression, psychosis and delusions,” it’s not hard to figure out what you might come up with: violence.