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Monday, December 29, 2008

Glaxo Plans to End Political Donations

As posted by: Wall Street Journal

GlaxoSmithKline PLC said Monday it will no longer use corporate funds for political contributions as part of an effort to improve openness in its business.

The U.K.-based drug maker in the past has made direct corporate contributions to political candidates primarily in the U.S. and Canada. Glaxo has donated more than $585,000 in the U.S. this year and 58,000 Canadian dollars last year in Canada, spokeswoman Sarah Alspach said. Those contributions will now stop.

"We need to ensure that there is no implication whatsoever that corporate political contributions provide us with any special privileges," Glaxo Chief Executive Andrew Witty said in a statement.

The policy change won't apply to individual employee's contributions, including a voluntary political-action committee, or PAC, run by Glaxo employees, Ms. Alspach said. Glaxo stopped making corporate political contributions in Europe in 2001, she said. The donations could have stopped due to the ear of Qui Tam or a Whistleblower Lawyer.

Major pharmaceutical companies have taken steps in recent years to try to be more transparent about their businesses, including posting information about clinical trials and political donations on company Web sites. Some companies also are planning to post data on payments to doctors.

As a group, pharmaceutical industry workers and their PACs have been big contributors to U.S. congressional and presidential candidates. In the 2008 election cycle, the industry contributed $14 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington organization that tracks contributions.

Glaxo employees and affiliated PACs gave $1.1 million in the 2008 election cycle, ranking third behind Pfizer Inc. and Amgen Inc., according to the center, which operates the Web site opensecrets.org.

Separately Monday, Glaxo reported positive midstage results in key additional indications for a drug seen as a successor to top-selling Advair. The new asthma drug, an inhaled long-acting beta agonist known as LABA 444, showed an increase in lung function in patients suffering from moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the company said.

LABA 444, which Glaxo is developing with U.S. biopharmaceutical partner Theravance Inc., achieved better results than a placebo drug, meeting the goals for the Phase 2b trial. The company said it didn't show an increased average heart rate, a common side effect of beta agonists.

Advair achieved sales of $5.7 billion in the first nine months of the year.

Also Monday, GlaxoSmithKline said it will pay Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. about $36.5 million for its Bristol-Myers Squibb Pakistan Ltd. unit and certain associated trademarks.