Big Pharma received a nod in the UK’s New Year’s Honours List this week when a knighthood was duly bestowed upon GSK’s Andrew Witty — making him ‘Sir Andrew’ to you and me. For once, though, receiving such an honor did not exactly place him in totally exalted company.
This year’s list has attracted criticism for its inclusion of controversial characters such as Paul Ruddock — whose hedge fund management company Landsdowne Associates made £100 million ($156 million) betting on the collapse of Northern Rock — and Gerald Ronson, who was sent to jail for six months and fined £5 million in 1990 for his part in the Guinness share-trading scandal (but has since redeemed himself with much philanthropic fundraising). There was also a measure of hostile reaction to the knighting of Paul Bazalgette, a TV executive responsible for bringing the egregious Big Brother to British TV screens.
Still, none of this is bad for pharma’s reputation — in such company Witty really does seem something of the ‘knight in shining armour’, rewarded as he is for services to the economy rather than donating vast amounts to the Conservative Party (which some would suggest is the reason for Ruddock’s recognition). And Witty is not the only pharma industry representative to be honored. Richard Barker, former Director-General of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, was also handed an OBE (Order of the British Empire).