Five questions answered on GSK market abuse allegations

Company said it acted within the law.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has been accused of abusing the market by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). We answer five questions on the allegations.

Why have the OFT alleged this about GSK?

The OFT alleges that GSK paid off rivals in order to stop generic – and cheaper – versions of its Seroxat drug coming into the market, therefore ruining competition.

What do GSK say to these allegations?

In a statement the company said it acted ‘within the law’ and that the company supports fair trading.

A statement published on the BBC said: "In fact, these arrangements actually resulted in generic versions of paroxetine entering the market before GSK's patents had expired.”
It added that the matters referred to by the OFT had already been investigated by the European Commission in 2005 – 2006.

"The issues were also reviewed in the European Commission's 2008-2009 Sector Inquiry. Neither investigation resulted in any sanctions against the company,” the statement read.

 Who are the rival drug companies that were involved?

Alpharma, Generics UK and Norton Healthcare all received money in order to hold off releasing their generic versions of anti-depression drug Seroxat. GSK accused them of infringing its patent on the drug.
What else has the OFT said?

"The introduction of generic medicines can lead to strong competition on price, which can drive savings for the NHS, to the benefit of patients and, ultimately, taxpayers," said Ann Pope, senior director of services, infrastructure and public markets at the OFT to the BBC.

"It is therefore particularly important that the OFT fully investigates concerns that independent generic entry may have been delayed in this case."

What will happen next?

The firms will be asked to respond to the allegations presented by the OFT. The OFT will then decide whether competition law has been infringed.

If the allegations are proven, all companies will be deemed as infringing the competition law. GSK will also be responsible for taking advantage of a dominant position in the market.

GSK. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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