Life Industry Essay – GlaxoSmith Kline

Published: 2021/11/16
Number of words: 2349

Introduction- description of the company, location and history

GlaxoSmith Kline pls (GSK), is one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies, which develops and manufactures innovative branded human health drugs, vaccines and healthcare products (Weyzig, 2004). The company was officially formed in 2000 by the merger of Glaxo Wellcome pls and SmithKline Beecham plc (Weyzig, 2004). Its history however, can be traced back to 1715, when a young entrepreneur named Silvanus Bevan (from Swansea) founded the London’s Plough court pharmacy (GSK, 2017). The company gradually grew into Allen and Hansbury and in turn became part of GlaxoWellcome. After its fourth century, GSK presently has around 100,000 employees’ worldwide, 15% of which work across six research centers, nine manufacturing sites and five offices and GSK’s global headquarters in Brentford, London (Wikipedia, 2018).

What products they manufacture, develop and sell 

GSK has two main business divisions: pharmaceuticals, which is bifurcated into prescription drugs and vaccines (hepatitis A, B and influenza), this is their largest sector, generating 85% of their total sales (Weyzig, 2004). And consumer healthcare products, this includes over-the-counter medicines (OTC), for example, sensodyne toothpaste and nutritional healthcare drinks (Wikipedia, 2018). GSK are predominantly involved in manufacturing biologics (amoxil), vaccines (priorix/MMR) and consumer healthcare products (corsodyl and Nicorette). The main products that GSK currently sell are, seretide/Advair which is for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, paxil/seroxat and wellbutrin which are both antidepressant drugs (Weyzig, 2004). In 2003, GSK ranked second globally, in the pharmaceutical industry (after Pfizer) (Wikipedia, 2018). And they are currently the leading manufacturer of prescription drugs such as anti-infective, respiratory, gastro-intestinal/metabolic and central nervous system drugs (holding 43% worlds shares of these areas combined) (Weyzig, 2004) (Forbes, 2018).

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What research they’ve undertaken/known for 

Antimicrobial mutation (AMR) is considered as a serious health hazard by the World Health Organisation which requires immediate action. GSK state that antibiotic resistance has been fueled by misuse of antibiotics and recognizes this as a major threat, thus for the past 40 years, antibiotic development has been one of their major focus. In specific Augmentin/Amoxicillin which is used for bacterial infections. GSK have implemented changes to Augmentin over the years, one of which was changing the ratio of amoxicillin to clavulanic acid to meet the needs the users and treat more severe infections caused by more recent and stronger bacteria (GSK , 2018). Consequently, as this drug is in great global demand, it has grown to be one of GSK’s largest selling products

The company’s philosophy

GlaxoSmith Kline’s chief executive officer, Sir Andrew Witty, stated “Our values, and how we conduct ourselves, should be something that truly differentiates us” (GSK, 2017). GSK’s core values are patient focus, integrity, respect for people and transparency (GSK, 2017). These values ensure that their medicines are of highest standard and that they provide effective treatment within the spirit of law and regulations. In 2003, GSK adopted a set of corporate responsibility principles (CRS) (Weyzig, 2004). CRS aims to ensure that companies conduct their business in an ethical manner (The University of Edinburgh, 2017). However, despite GSK’s claims to be transparent about its policies, reports regarding their performance on internal monitoring and employment practices seems to be insufficient. Consequently, there have been numerous criticism and allegations regarding GSK’s ill-advised drug promotions and tax evasions (Weyzig, 2004). In July 2012, GSK pleaded guilty in the United States to the promotion of anti-depressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses (1998-2003) and its failure to provide safety data about Avandia; both cases were in violation of federal food, drug and cosmetic act (Wikipedia, 2018). GSK was also found guilty of paying physicians to prescribe their drugs (Holmes, 2005). The company had to then sign a five-year cooperate integrity agreement. This meant that they were now obliged to make extensive alterations to the way they handled their business (Wikipedia, 2018). Rosiglitazone (a diabetes drug) resulted in a heavy criminal fine settlement. The drug was approved in 1999 and GSK promoted it to doctors with false information, stating that it conferred cardiovascular benefits despite FDA’s statement of its risks rather than benefits (Wikipedia, 2018).

Company’s website and critiques 

Drug Companies such as GSK invest billions to help fund cures, however, the money is also part of a high-risk quest for profits and elimination of their competitors, and this has over the years lead to lethal consequences. GSK’s website ‘’ has no extensive explanation of the effects of their prescription medication, thus consumers do not have further details of the product other than, the information they are told by their doctors and on the packaging of the drugs. This raises the concern that GSK may be deliberately hiding information. GSK was faced with a recent lawsuit regarding this matter; Eliot Spitzer, accused the company of fraudulently hiding vital details about the negative side effects of their antidepressant drug Paxil (Holmes, 2005). There have been details of internal document describing their strategy to destroy information regarding the negative effects of Paxil, in order to avoid negative commercial impact. Some may conclude that pharmaceutical companies like GSK make these investments to ensure that their drugs lead to profit instead of an effective cure, which undermines the purpose of medicine in general. &

Clinical trials and its stages 

GSK’s research is revolved around developing more effective methods of treatment for diseases which currently have no cure and diseases in which medication is already in place. Clinical trials are fundamental in current evidence-based medicine; they enable drug companies to evaluate new drugs and therapies, which may be the cure to chronic diseases (Sullivan, 2018). Prior to clinical trials drugs are first tested on human cells and animals. GSK’s 3 phase clinical trials are monitored by Government authorities as well as their own Global Safety Board (GSB) which is chaired by their chief medical officer, senior physicians and scientists (GSK, 2018). Phase 1 of the trials involves testing the new drug on healthy volunteers, this ensures that the drug is: safe; can travel to the targeted body area and enables researchers to gain preliminary evidence that it can offer therapeutic value. In phase 2, the drug is tested on individuals with the condition, this tests the effectiveness of the drug in both treating and preventing the disease and determining the appropriate dose. Often a double-blind trial takes place, where some patients are given a placebo, this avoids bias in the results. Finally, phase 3 involves testing the drug on thousands of participants across different countries, this enables them to confirm dosage, compare benefits and risks of the drug, identify contraindications and compares results against currently achieved by existing treatments. This stage may take several years. GSK is currently conducting trials on drugs for respiratory and HIV (GSK, 2018). Although GSK is very descriptive in their clinical trial procedure, their website includes no example of a drug going through the process. This is another limitation, critics like Whoriskey state that, “drug companies invest far more money than NIH in clinical trials of drugs” he estimates that “85% or more of clinical trials are paid for by industry” (LaMattina, 2012). Their display of limited information raises questions regarding their reliability.

The biological product they sell and its mechanism of action

GSK develop and sell Ranitidine (Zantac), which reduces the production of stomach acid, commonly used to treat peptic ulcer disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and Zollinger–Ellison syndrome (Wikipedia, 2018). The dosage is 150mg (Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD, 2018). Ranitidine can be taken in three forms: oral; intra muscular injection and intravenous therapy (Wikipedia, 2018). Ranitidine is a histamine H2-receptor antagonist which is like nizatidine, cimetidine and famotidine (Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD, 2018). H2 antagonist drugs work by blocking the action of histamine on parietal cells (stomach), this reduces the acid production of the cells and meal-stimulated acid production (Wikipedia, 2018). H2 antagonists are competitive inhibitors of histamine (at the parietal cell H2 receptor) (Wikipedia, 2018). The mechanism of this drug is accomplished via two different mechanisms; firstly, the ECL cells in the stomach release histamine, this is blocked from binding on parietal cell H2 receptor (which stimulates the production of acid). It can also block the histamine binding to other substances that may encourage acid secretion i.e. acetylcholine and gastrin, which have less effect on the cells when the H2 receptors are blocked (Wikipedia, 2018) .

Figure 1: pathway diagram of the mechanism of histamine inhibition.

Business operations and target market

GSK’s business operations involve collaborations with international organisations. They believe that this will help them advance their scientific research and develop products that can address the needs of their target market including: hospitals; physicians and retail pharmacies. GSK’s R&D- Scinovo group, gives their partners access to pre-clinical and drug development expertise (GSK, 2018). Like Novartis, GSK have R&D centres established solely for work on cures for neglected tropical diseases (GSK, 2016). Collaborating with governments and charities enables them to do this. GSK recently collaborated with 23andme in a mission to create potential cures using human genetics as the basis for discovery (George, 2018).

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Career opportunities 

GlaxoSmith Kline provide career opportunities in different sectors across the globe, including research and development, engineering, manufacturing and supply and business operations. The qualifications needed are dependent on the job: becoming a researcher requires a PhD, there are also various internship schemes for university students, enabling them to gain an insight into the industry. GSK believe that motivated employees are key to a successful business and thus the company has adopted a system of mutualistic relationship, whereby the employees are rewarded as a result of their hard work (GSK, 2017). GSK employees have access to healthcare and wellbeing programs, as well as pension plan memberships and childcare support. Apart from their competitive based salary they receive a yearly bonus based on the company’s performance (GSK 2017). In addition to the benefits, GSK employees receive on-the-job experience and formal and informal learning, this is conducted through a mixture of mentoring, formal training programs and open conversations with mentors that help shake their career (GSK, 2018).


Health is an important universal asset; the global pharmaceutical industries have made great investments in improving the quality of life. Being part of the top five pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline’s research and development of new innovative therapies and cures, has helped mankind immensely. With a history of over 300 years, it is likely that GSK will continue to prosper, irrespective of the severe competition that it faces within its market.



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