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

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.