Betting on Lives

From today’s New York Times:

In the fall of 1999, the drug giant SmithKline Beecham secretly began a study to find out if its diabetes medicine, Avandia, was safer for the heart than a competing pill, Actos, made by Takeda.

Avandia’s success was crucial to SmithKline, whose labs were otherwise all but barren of new products. But the study’s results, completed that same year, were disastrous. Not only was Avandia no better than Actos, but the study also provided clear signs that it was riskier to the heart.

But instead of publishing the results, the company spent the next 11 years trying to cover them up, according to documents recently obtained by The New York Times. The company did not post the results on its Web site or submit them to federal drug regulators, as is required in most cases by law.

The particulars are obviously different from BP’s compromised safety record, but they highlight a shared trend: corporations disregarding any notion of social responsibility in their grab for short-term profits. They’re also laying waste to the conservative argument that corporations can police themselves. This was happening under arguably the best regulatory body we have, the FDA.

If possible, I think the authorities need to look into distributing some serious jail time as a deterrent to future corner-cutters. Perhaps the government should explore revoking GlaxoSmithKline’s corporate charter as well. Of course, given current feelings about corporate personhood, I would wager the literal death penalty has more support.