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

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.