Drugs firm GlaxoSmithKline is to pay £3bn in fines after admitting it bribed doctors in the United States to prescribe medicines for unapproved uses.
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The agreement, which still needs court approval, would resolve allegations that the British pharmaceutical company broke US laws in the marketing and development of drugs.
The UK's largest pharmaceutical company was accused of bribing doctors in America to prescribe medicines for unapproved uses, with potentially dangerous side effects.
Glaxo, which is based in west London and has household names such as Lucozade and Ribena under its brand, is due to plead guilty to criminal and civil offences involving 10 drugs taken by millions of people.
Prosecutors said that between 1998 and 2003 Glaxo illegally promoted the anti-depressant Paxil for treating depression in children, even though it was not approved for under-18s.
The company also promoted Wellbutrin from 1999 to 2003 for weight loss, sexual dysfunction, substance addictions and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, although it was approved only for treatment of major depression.
Glaxo has also agreed to resolve civil liability for promoting asthma drug Advair and two lesser-known drugs for unapproved uses. The company also resolved accusations that it overcharged the government-funded Medicaid programme for some drugs and that it bribed doctors to prescribe several medicines including asthma drug Flovent and herpes medicine Valtrex.
Putting patients first
Sir Andrew Witty, Glaxo's chief executive, expressed regret yesterday and said the company had learned "from the mistakes that were made".
"On behalf of GSK, I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learnt from the mistakes that were made.
"We are deeply committed to doing everything we can to live up to and exceed the expectations of those we work with and serve. Since I became CEO, we have had a clear priority to ingrain a culture of putting patients first, acting transparently, respecting people inside and outside the organisation and displaying integrity in everything we do."